Disease is big business in the US. Our national failure to distinguish health care and medical care has us trapped in fallacious arguments -- with talking heads in the media across the country espousing on their ideas for "health" reform, such as the push for universal care -- which is simply to increase access to medical care -- without ever truly understanding the full scale or depth of the problems. The following are some of the most critical problems in our health care system:
A medical system and medical monopoly on care that prevents options -- and thinking -- outside of allopathic medicine.
A fee-for-service reimbursement system that allows physicians to over-prescibe services for profit purposes. This reimbursement system has persisted despite common sense, but was spawned, in part, by physician groups' fighting for autonomy after the introduction of the third party payer system.
A mixed market that prevents the development of a more democratic socialist type of universal care while also preventing the "laws" of capitalism from working. Consumers are unable to play their normal role in a capitalist system in US health care, partly because the AMA forbids publication of the relative value units (RVUs -- the costs attached to its codes) from being made public knowledge. We are thus unable to competitively shop for services, which would normally force those providing them to lower prices and/or become more efficient. The private market in health care has long enjoyed its status of being free from the dictates of consumer- oriented capitalism -- and it is foreseeable that we could change the reimbursement system while still preventing consumers from being able to influence price.
Our national obsession with pharmaceuticals. This is perhaps one of the most ghastly aspects of our current paradigm -- the susceptibility of the American public to believing that a pill can be a panacea -- or that drugs cure -- when quite often they are highly toxic, far more dangerous than natural health options, and far less efficacious when it comes to restoring health. DRUGS MANAGE SYMPTOMS of underlying imbalance in systems. Yet the power, money and influence the drug companies have gained since we repealed the law prohibiting them from advertising on TV has allowed these companies to spend the kind of money needed to convince the American public that they need more and more drugs. Meanwhile, we are polluting water tables across the country -- due to major over-medication of millions of people who would, in many cases, find real relief from methods that treat whole systems and underlying problems.
An underfunded and corrupt FDA. The FDA, an organization designed to protect the American public, is largely funded by drug companies. Its hands are tied due to funding issues, it is understaffed and overworked, and it is squarely entrenched in the allopathic mindset. It is by no means a neutral organization -- and at present, it is incapable of living up to its duties.
Moral hazard. Moral hazard occurs when patients take too little accountability for their own health, and/or they overuse health insurance due to a lack of knowledge about costs and a lack of responsibility for paying them. (MDs commit moral hazard as well, when they over -- prescribe due to greed or malpractice fears). Patient moral hazard is in part due to the allopathic paradigm that has convinced people they have no valid intuitive knowledge of their own bodies -- a paradigm that has shifted accountability, responsibility, and the power to heal -- into the hands of MDs. This psychological paradigm runs deep -- and secured itself in our history in the late 1800's, when the AMA systematically set out to destroy and discredit the homeopathic industry. Since then, the American people have largely distanced themselves from natural healing and an understanding of their own bodies -- instead choosing to believe that the "doctor knows best" -- when very, very often, this is NOT the case!
A profit-based, allopathic-obsessed system that actively prevents the adoption of low-cost efficacious healing modalities -- to the point of sending innocent people to jail and turning our backs on methods that work because they are not highly profitable and not instigated by those in the orthodoxy.
This last point is one of the most critical, and ties back to the first. Ultimately, whether the American public or Congress knows it or not, we are facing a clash of paradigms. I have worked for many years in the alternative/integrative health industry (which we now refer to as "natural medicine" or "natural health"), and witnessed many incredible things. I call it the "underground railroad" of health care in the US. Across the country providers and patients are working together to restore vital health, often after patients have been told there are no answers or they have no hope. There are tens of thousands of American citizens who know otherwise.
Yet, colleagues like my friend Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez in NYC nearly go to jail, lose their licenses, lose their reputations, and rack up millions in legal fees defending themselves -- all too often because they had the gall to "go off the deep end," and turn their backs on the orthodoxy of conventional medicine. Despite his sterling credentials, Dr. Gonzalez nearly lost everything because he discovered and began to offer an alternative cancer treatment. And, after years of fighting for his freedom and ability to practice, the NIH turned around and gave him a $2 million grant to test his treatment on patients! This is because he is one of the few people in the country seeing success in treating pancreatic cancer.
I have many stories similar to that of Dr. Gonzalez. But let me say this: I am as critical of the natural health field as I am of conventional medicine. Both sides of this fence have their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and failures, their places of integrity and places of greed, dishonesty, and a willful refusal to work toward a higher, common good. Natural medicine holds INCREDIBLE promise -- but the field itself is a terrible mess -- and despite the good number of people who are working for change -- it is characterized by a complete inability to come together to actually change our system.
All of this scratches the surface of what we face, and how and why we got here. When we fail to understand the psychology behind health care -- and how much this psychology has been shaped, even deliberately, by the self-interests of big industry, then we fail to grasp the problem to the degree that provides the power to generate real change.
There are practical, entrenched systemic issues to deal with at hand. And then there are our illusions -- and our need to create a new dialogue, one that allows us to break free of our narrow understanding of health and healing, to see the full range of tools and options we have at our disposal, and to discover how we might best make use of them to create a healthy health care system.