Day 490: Too many customers.

I was listening to NPR today and there was this executive from a chain of hospitals warning that costs were going to skyrocket with the huge number of people being added to the health care system. I thought I heard wrong, but he said it again. Huh?

Imagine WalMart complaining that it had too many new customers. Or General Motors saying if the demand for new cars didn’t slow down they might go bankrupt. On what planet did hospital-boy learn economics?

hospitalThe last time I visited a local hospital the triple-storied reception area and endless hallways and leather couches were virtually empty. Marble floors, stainless steel everything, and small waiting rooms with idle receptionists outside this doctor’s office and that hinted at lavishness you might expect of royalty. Wouldn’t spreading the cost of these palaces across more patients lower costs? What was I missing?

Okay. I’m not a doctor. I don’t even play one on television. But I have been a patient. And with all of my son’s surgeries and a few of my own I count myself as more experienced with the medical establishment than most. Although I believe the basic tenet of our culture (I’ll own you before you own me) is the biggest culprit in our race to extinction, the American medical debacle is right up there near the top of my list.

You’ve heard the numbers. The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. 72nd out of 191 in overall health while we spend more than double any other nation. More than double Australia, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Britain.

So instead of one less CT scan or, better yet, shifting the scan to someone who might actually benefit from it – we have a great debate about more insurance to fund the waste. 45,000 people die each year in the U.S. from lack of medical care (although our politicians tell us it’s from lack of insurance). We need to shift our focus from getting rich to saving lives. Sick people are not a cash crop.

Diabetes. You feel fine but your doctor looks at a blood test and starts you on pills and test strips. A few years pass. Just about the time you can no longer find an employer with health insurance you graduate to using insulin. With insurance your three-vial Lantis habit costs $105 a month. No insurance – $450 a month. $450 for one ounce of the stuff that millions of people are taking. I suppose the theory is with that much money going to a drug company you’ll be forced to eat less and lose some weight.

I asked my doctor why drug companies were charging folks who could least afford it four times as much as those who had insurance. His reply: Because they can. 

The 1-percenters are yelping about increased taxes. Why aren’t the 99-percenters yelping about $1000 a day hospital beds and back-breaking insurance (when they can get it at all) the 1-percenters extort from them?

Not even our chickens would have trouble improving the system. The only good news is as far as I’m concerned the problem solves itself in 489 more days.

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