Saturday, February 4, 2017

Health Care, Everywhere!

If there isn't something wrong with you these days, there is something wrong with you.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and live in an earlier era when everyone was healthier.   I am being sarcastic, of course, but in the "olden days" which was like only 100 years ago, diseases were pretty serious shit.   Polio, measles, whooping cough - you know all that shit that was cured by vaccines until some dumb-assed housewife decided she knew better.

Medicine back then was pretty primitive, and you didn't go running off to the doctor unless you had real ailments.   People back then, for some reason, never had fibromyalgia, or spastic colons, or sleep apnea, chronic fatigue syndrome, restless leg syndrome, tiny bladder syndrome, or any one of the number of the inconveniences we have in this modern world.

Back then, grandma had rheumatism, and grandpa snored.  People were tired and plagued by aches and pains because, well, life There were no "cures" for this back then, we just lived with it.   Life was about being fatigued, chronically or not, and of waking up and everything hurting.   People were tougher back then, maybe.  Maybe they had no choice.

What got me started thinking about this was reading the accounts of Captain William Bligh and the books he wrote about his experiences on the H.M.S. Bounty.   Back then, medicine largely didn't exist, and on any long voyage, you could expect at least one or two crewmen to die.   It was amazing it wasn't more, considering the tepid water they drank and stale food they ate.

Bligh recounts that one crewman came down with some sort of congestion - likely a cold or allergic reaction.  The ship's surgeon "bled" him, and oddly enough, the arm he was bled from became inflamed and he later died.   Likely the surgeon didn't use a sterile instrument, and the man died of a blood infection - such was the health care at the time.   You'd be better off just not going to the doctor back then.

But your state of health back then was one reason people did say, "How are you today?" as a greeting, and even today this anachronism carries on.   Back then, it was a major subject of discussion, as each day you woke up with some sort of pain or ailment, more often than not.  When you woke up and nothing hurt too badly and you had a successful bowel movement, well, that was a pretty freaking good day, wasn't it?

Today, we are a bunch of pussies, traipsing off to the doctor for all sorts of ailments that simply didn't exist back then because they were not deemed sufficiently serious enough to warrant treatment.   And our medical industry has geared up to treat these ailments, creating a huge medical-industrial-complex in each town or city.   Medicine is a huge business - larger than manufacturing in this country, as I noted before.

If you are looking for a steady job, might I suggest medicine.   Working in a factory is fine and all, but more people work in the medical industry than in a car plant.   Specialization is the new way to do it, too.  Elder care is probably the biggest growth area, although that could really literally be a shitty job if you end up working in a rest home changing adult diapers all day long.   But hey, it's a job, right?  Free job tip for you.

The medical industry loves to find some "condition" that they can legitimately diagnose in people, and then create an apparatus or drug or treatment that can be billed to Medicare, Medicaid, or the insurance companies.  For example, convince people they are sleeping wrong, and then charge the government or the insurance company for a sleeping machine to help them.   You think I am kidding, this is going on.  Snoring is no longer what grandpa does during his nap - it is a disease that needs to be treated.

And preferably it is a disease that never gets cured, either.  What you want is "conditions" or "syndromes" not "illnesses" or "diseases".   You want something that is chronic and lifetime, so you can make a ton of money - selling opiates or whatever.  Back pain is no longer cured with heat and massage, but with a deadly pill that costs a lot of money.  Guess which is the better treatment?

And it goes without saying that advertising your pill or device on television is essential to convincing people that they need not "suffer" in the least in life, if there is some medical procedure or pill that is available.   Or a two-page spread in a magazine, or an online ad.   Funny thing, though, you rarely see such ads for deadly serious diseases, unless it is for some controversial treatment center that holds out hope for dying cancer patients (while holding their wallets).

Preferably whatever it is you decide to go after should be something very widespread, so that almost anyone can be diagnosed with it.   Better yet, make it a test that will "save lives" by screening, so the government or insurance companies will pay for it.   Colonoscopies, for example, at $3000 a pop.   Or some cancer screening test that many doctors are now saying is of little use.

Curing an actual disease or illness?   You really don't know squat about how to make money, do you?   Really sick people will actually sue you, and that is messy.   Not only that, if you find a "cure" there is no money in that, as there are no perpetual sufferers.  Do you think that Dr. Saulk dude made any serious cash on a vaccine?   Hell no!  Let me tell you who cleaned up on that deal - the folks running the sanitariums and selling the leg braces - treatments for a lifetime chronic illness.  That's the way you do it.

And often these sick people are so inconsiderate as to have rare illnesses that are not profitable to treat!   You want something you can sell to millions of Americans, not mere hundreds or thousands.  No one wants to cure a rare illness, there is no money in it.   Literally.

Dentistry lead the way in this, of course.   Back when I was a kid, you had an underbite or an overbite, and no one gave it much more thought that being left-handed or right-handed. Today, it is Temporomandibular joint dysfunction or "TMJ" because patients love to have cool names for things.   Now they can break your jaw as one dentist proposed to me, and "fix" something that might not even need fixing.

Oh, provided you have insurance of course.  When I explained that, like most Americans, I did not have dental insurance, suddenly the "need" to fix my jaw disappeared.  Similarly, the "night guard" turned out not to solve any real tooth problem, but did act as a wallet-lightener.

When you were a kid, being "pigeon-toed" was just something you had, again, about as interesting as being left-handed.   Today, we can fix this, along with everything else that is "wrong" in your body, including those pesky wrong genitals that God gave you - just a snip-snip here and a tuck-tuck there, and it all gets billed to Medicare!

Just a snip-snip here and you're all fixed up!

Does this mean everyone seeking these treatments is a hypochondriac?  Of course not. There are people with real illnesses, of course.   And some people even have sleep apnea, I am sure.  But not everyone.   As my dental hygienist said, when I mentioned these "sleep studies" they do these days, she replied, "those are fun!  But they always say you need something after..."   In other words, the diagnosis rate is approaching 100%, if you have the study done.

Allergists have a similar racket.   Don't get me wrong, people with severe allergies can literally die if they are exposed to some allergens like peanuts or bee stings.  Others of us just suffer during pollen season.   But expensive trips to the allergist, for both me and Mark resulted in (a) a proposal for a lifetime of appointments for regular shots (Mark said no thank you), and (b) a useless $400 epi-pen that the allergist said I needed, mostly to cover his ass from malpractice concerns.

The "cure" as it turned out, was just over-the counter allergy medications, which are pretty cheap.   But some doctors will find a more serious illness if you let them.   And of course, why do I have allergies in the first place (and a detached bicep?)  - those lovely new anti-biotics we have these days, which will save your life but play hell with your immune system.   That is a conundrum.

And don't get me started on mental health care.  The really crazy people we boot out of institutions and hand them a bottle of pills - and directions to the nearest gun shop.   People who are depressed are medicated - and some need this medication.   But others, well, we prescribe happiness in a pill to everyone, and to even suggest that maybe we are over-medicating America is to be called a cruel heartless bastard.   Ask Tom Cruise about this.

Or take Autism - people are making a mockery of this very serious condition by claiming to suffer from "Autism Spectral Disorders" which are often so vaguely defined that anyone can diagnose them in themselves, their children, friends, parents, or whatever.    Why this is, is a mystery to me, as there is no cure for autism.   Rather, I think people like to self-diagnose this in the same manner that people read horoscopes or study genealogy - to look for some hidden meaning in life or "explanation" for why they are the way they are.

Or fat scooters - advertised on television and paid for by Medicare!   You can get a little three-wheeled scooter so you don't have to walk anymore.   And sadly, it is the reverse of the correct prescription for someone who is overweight - they should be walking more not less.   But the scooter-sellers are not dumb, and they illustrate the mentality of Americans these days - what free shit can I get out of the government this week?  A scooter?  Cool.

This is an actual thing, I kid you not.  How did our ancestors live without electronic nose-cleaning machines?  Disgusting if you ask me.

So how do we fix this problem, and can it be fixed?  The problem is, the medical-industrial-complex is far too big now.  Obamacare, with the best of intentions, threw gasoline on the fire.   They have too many powerful lobbyists and lawyers for any significant change to be made.   It won't be long before everyone will be working in medicine and paying half their salary to pay for health care to fix things they didn't know were wrong.

In the meantime, life expectancy will continue to drop.  Yes, drop. Sad, ain't it? The "greatest generation ever" will have the longest life expectancy, and all this without nose-cleaning, CPAP, jaw-breaking, or pee-pee pills.   Maybe because they didn't have all this.  Maybe we are over-medicated?  They smoked cigarettes and inhaled asbestos and they still outlived us.  This is simply not fair!  We have such better medical care than they did!

But like I said, it will be hard to change.  Advertising prescription medications in the media fuels a lot of demand for treatment, whether you want to confront this hard reality or not.   Yes, some people actually suffer from fill-in-the-blank disease (especially you, dear reader!  I would never suggest your pain is not real!  No, I mean those other people, of course!).  The ugly truth is, if you advertise an illness on television a certain segment of the population and a large segment at that, will decide they have that illness.

Going up against big pharma and big media.   Guess who wins that battle?

Then there are the millions of medical professionals and specialists, the insurance companies, and the ancillary people in the medical industry - even including landlords who build medical centers and rent them to doctors.   This is big money we're talking about here, and no one wants to stop the gravy train.

The GOP is proposing "medical savings plans" which will work for the middle class, but be a cruel joke to the poor.   And that is the other problem, right there.  The moment you even dare suggest that we are spending too much on medical care or suggest that some of these modern maladies might be bit over-stated you are castigated by people as being "unfeeling" or "cruel" or whatever. 

They want to shout down discussion rather than have a discussion.   And the first tenet they have is that there are no hypochondriacs in the world, ever, ever, ever.  The reality is, we are all prone to this, particularly when a man in a white smock says we need something.   How do you think I ended up with that stupid night guard?   It was at that point I decided that getting advice from a doctor was a good idea, getting instruction maybe wasn't, as they are fallible human beings like me, and might suggest things that profit them personally, but that I might not actually need.

But you know what I think is really cruel?   The system we have now, where maladies are advertised on television, and where people are encouraged to be "sufferers" from "syndromes" and to spend their lives on chat groups identifying themselves this way - looking for a role to play in life.

Meanwhile, our medical system can't treat people with real illnesses because they can't afford it and make too little to go on Obamacare.   Our politicians are too gridlocked by philosophical theoretical arguments about economics to come up with a real solution that will be the best compromise for everyone involved.   And the big money in medicine doesn't want to let go to the machine they've created which does a better job of treating "conditions" and "syndromes" than in curing real illnesses.

Big Pharma has a pill to give you a boner, big medicine has an operation to change your gender.   Neither has the inclination or desire to cure cancer, it seems, or even the common cold.  Because, hey, chronic incurable illnesses are quite profitable, aren't they?