This article at Common Dreams is ostensibly a discussion about hernia repair surgery, namely, an option to be treated more humanely and cheaply in Canada than in the U.S. The discussion turns to deeper criticisms of the American way of providing healthcare, however.
Too many general surgeons and hospitals have on average over 10 times the rate of recurrence, four times the rate of infection, and often use expensive mesh both to replace lack of surgical skill and to speed up the operation. Plus they charge much more before they quickly say “sayonara.”
The Shouldice [Hospital, outside of Toronto] procedure is described by hospital officials as a “natural tissue repair that combines the surgical technique with the body’s natural ability to heal,” and takes, on average, forty-five minutes to complete. Except in rare circumstances, “the technique does not use artificial prosthetic material such as mesh because mesh can introduce unnecessary complications such as infections or migration, dramatically increasing the cost of the operation. Shouldice does not use laparoscopic technology because of the potential intestinal punctures and bladder and blood vessel injuries, which may lead to infection and peritonitis.” Shouldice staff note that laparoscopic surgery also requires general anesthesia and hugely higher costs for disposable items per surgery than is the case at their hospital.
There are about one million abdominal wall hernia operations yearly in the U.S. Hospitals and general surgeons for the most part do not use the Shouldice Procedure. Still the deplorable “quick and dirty” that invites overuse of mesh – about 80 percent of the patients – has become a perverse incentive for higher billings in the United States. Superior talent is needed for the more natural procedure used by Shouldice.
In the Washington Post, Jonathan Kay writes:
Last week, I wrote a column about the problem of “unwanted care,” a term used to describe the aggressive, invasive, often debilitating heath treatments that are imposed on dying patients — frequently when they are senile or unconscious — during their last weeks or months of life. The example I provided, courtesy of Atlantic magazine author Jonathan Rauch, was of a 94-year-old man dying from internal bleeding and kidney failure in a U.S. hospital. Instead of providing palliative care, the doctors tried to get authorization to remove the man’s colon and put him on dialysis. “We are spending billions on health care that no one wants, and which often has no real effect except suffering and indignity,” I argued.
I often wonder how different it would be if we all agreed ahead of time in the abstract that insurance simply won’t cover extending the heart beats of people who are inevitably dying, either unaware or unconscious. I suspect that if standard health policy insurance money weren’t easily available, many of us would quickly decide that life was at an end, that it was a natural process, and that it is simply time for him (or her) to go.
With the aid of easy medical insurance coverage, though, many of us take the position that every heartbeat of life is sacred, even when the patient is unlikely to regain consciousness, and if that, only for a few more weeks in an extremely frail state. In big families where many members recognize the futility of extending unconscious dying life, there is often one or a few outspoken members of the family vocally urging that every last dollar must be spent to extent the number of heartbeats, guilt-tripping those members of the family who know how to accept dying as a part of life. As it is whenever something is declared to be sacred. Dying in the presence of easy insurance coverage is something to be fought at all costs, with no compromises.
Again, why don’t we all agree, ahead of time, that when the cost-benefit becomes lopsided, that there will not be any standard insurance coverage to extent the heartbeats of dying people with little hope of further meaningful life? When I ask people I know this question, they vote overwhelmingly in favor of this. As a society, we should draw that line in the abstract, so that those put in this position will have only the option or their own money (or buying a special policy for this purpose). As the above article concludes, “These are discussions that need to take place earlier in life, without a medical crisis looming overhead.”
Fascinating. Fecal transplants–yes, the transplants of poo from one person to another–have cured some extremely sick people and probably saved some lives. Yet the FDA enacted some regulations making the medical technique of transplanting fecal matter difficult. This left many people suffering from ulcerative colitis without an effective remedy, but still with a willingness to try the technique themselves.
The theory of the cure is that the intestinal bacteria (the microbiota) in some people are not well and and they need to be replaced with a collection of healthy bacteria. Given the current difficulty of finding a doctor to do the cure (given the current FDA restrictions) some people are stepping up to offer their own poo to help desperate friends and relatives. Here’s a general article regarding fecal transplants. Here’s a recent NYT story of one woman who successfully offered to help her friend. And for those who need to know how to accomplish a fecal transplant without the help of a doctor, here is a video produced by a women who has given fecal transplants to her daughter for about nine months, with resounding success. She describes the technique of performing the fecal transplant as “low cost, easy and effective,” accomplishing the transplant with the help of an enema kit and some kitchen accessories.
According to Wikipedia, many other conditions might benefit from fecal transplants, including autoimmune disorders, neurological conditions, obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
These numbers from the Miliman Research Report are stunning. This situation cannot possibly be sustainable for most Americans, and I have little faith that the Affordable Care Act will reduce these costs. I want to believe that the ACA will address costs, but I simply can’t believe this. It’s also amazing that in light of these numbers, and in light of the recent blockbuster Time Magazine article, “Bitter Pill,” America seems incapable of having a rational conversation about what it really needs to do to reduce these horrendous costs.
Last year, when healthcare costs for the typical American family of four exceeded $20,000 for the first time, the Milliman Medical Index (MMI) compared the cost of a family’s healthcare to the cost of an average midsize sedan. This year, with costs exceeding $22,000 ($22,030), we note that healthcare costs for our family of four are almost as much as the cost of attending an in-state public college ($22,261) for the current academic year. The total share of this cost borne directly by the family—$9,144 in payroll deductions and out-of-pocket costs—now exceeds the cost of groceries for the MMI’s typical family of four. The out-of-pocket cost alone—$3,600 for co-pays, coinsurance, and other cost sharing—is more than the average U.S. household spends on gas in a year.
I know that this article at Bananenplanet is filled with generalizations, but many of them rang true to me. Thoughtful article that suggests that Americans need to look in the mirror. Here are some of the main points:
- We Know Nothing About The Rest Of The World
- The Quality of Life For The Average American Is Not That Great
- The Rest Of The World Is Not A Slum-Ridden Shithole Compared To Us
- We’re Paranoid
- We’re Status-Obsessed And Seek Attention
- We Are Very Unhealthy
- We Mistake Comfort For Happiness
Why is it that generic drug makers sometimes delay entering the market, sometimes long after the drug patent expires? This is another tale in corporatocracy, told by Alternet:
[I]magine you’re a big-time drug company. You want to keep competitors off the market as long as possible. Your move is to basically sue the pants off the generic drugmaker for copyright infringement, setting in motion a long and tortuous legal process. And these usually end with “pay-for-delay” deals. The brand-name drug company pays the generic manufacturer a cash settlement, and the generic manufacturer agrees to delay entry into the market for a number of years. In the case before the Supreme Court, the drug company paid $30 million a year to protect its $125 million annual profit in AndroGel, a testosterone supplement.
It’s hard to see this as anything but bribery, designed to preserve a lucrative monopoly for the brand-name drug maker. In fact, this is what the Federal Trade Commission has argued for over a decade. They consider it a violation of antitrust law, arguing that the exchange of cash gives the generic manufacturer a share of future profits in the drug, specifically to prolong the monopoly. As SCOTUSBlog summarizes from the FTC’s court brief, in the regulator’s view, “Nothing in patent law … validates a system in which brand-name companies could buy off their would-be competitors.” Indeed, everyone wins with pay-for-delay but the consumer: the FTC estimates that the two dozen deals inked in 2012 alone cost drug patients $3.5 billion annually, with the brand-name and generic manufacturers splitting the ill-gotten profits.
Check out the feature article in this week’s Time Magazine. It’s called “Bitter Pill,” and it’s written by Steven Brill, a savvy insider. In addition to making me apprehensive that health insurance costs are about to spike upward due to Obamacare’s lack of any meaningful price controls on health insurance, it gives an insider’s look into the massively arbitrary pricing of health care services. In the absence of any competitive market, big hospitals (including the so-called non-profit hospitals) are freely allowed to concoct the prices they charge. They quietly maintain their made-up pricing on their non-public “chargemaster” price lists.
We are hit with so much propaganda about the “need” to drink cow milk that many Americans uncritically believe it. To follow up on an article I once wrote about all the dairy hype (“The Land of Milk and Money“), I offer this more recent article listing “10 Fascinating Facts About Cow Milk.”
And yes, most of the world’s adults are lactose intolerant. It is not even possible for them to drank milk. We milk-drinkers are the unusual ones. Actually, I’m mostly there. I put soy milk on my cereal, but I still do enjoy ice cream. But I don’t consume milk products for the calcium. I know that there are other ways to get calcium.