Doctors and Hospitals Gone Wild

medical-billNew Orleans  I don’t care what anyone says about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, the more you read the headlines, the clearer it is that these medical types, many of the hospitals that employ them, and the drug companies that service them are simply out of control, and it’s at our expense!

            Let’s look at the evidence all around us.

            Glaxo, the huge UK drug company, became the first piece of big Pharma to announce that it was going to stop paying doctors to be drug pushers.  On the streets of our cities that kind of thing can get you interminable jail sentences, but in big business, it continues to be standard operating procedure.

            Doctors as drug pushers is a business plan that works. 

For example, some doctors that didn’t get the memo and believe that there’s no way it is appropriate or possible for doctors to be prescribing meds at the level they are for attention deficit disorders for children, citing the fact that twenty years ago such meds were given to perhaps 600,000 young people and are now given to 2.3 million.

Another example was a long story in a recent New Yorker about the efforts of Merck to develop a drug to help insomniacs and people who think they need to get to sleep more easily with less aftereffects.  The story was illustrative not only of the crazy, expensive process that can cost $2 billion dollars to bring a drug to market, but also the harrowing review of the problems of the premier sleep aid, Ambien, which has recently gone generic after billions in profits.  The stuff was wildly dangerous it seems and everyone knew it, but kept prescribing it at will and whim.  The most shocking to me was finding that the best any of them might do is help you sleep 10 to 20 minutes longer every night.  Really, is that all?  Why bother?

On the other hand one suggestion that doctors and hospitals don’t seem to succumb to easily though turns out to be charity.  Figures culled from IRS and Affordable Care Act reporting requirements now reveal that nonprofit hospitals with tax exemptions requiring that they provide charity care and community benefit only average 7.5% of their gross expenditures in these categories.  Some are less than 1% and a few approach 20%.  It’s an average, right, but it’s also graded on a curve.  Some of the so-called community benefits are almost laughable, like credit for donating an executive’s time for United Way fundraising activity and the like. 

Of course the most ludicrous example of hospitals gone wild is the grossly inflated and fabricated costs where a Band-Aid is worth hundreds of dollars and there can be differences in prices for the simplest procedures of many, many times over.  Hospitals are starting to make the Pentagon seem like a cheapskate contractor.  Most of these hospital executives would clearly be comfortable on $10,000 toilet seats, since it’s a pricing strategy they understand.

The music from this merry-go-round has got to stop so that we can return to the notion of doctors living up to their oaths to “do no harm” and hospitals caring for people and the poor first, rather than their own profits.

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