Your Health On Politics

Forget about the current push to defund Medicare and the on-going tirade over the new but heavily watered-down federal healthcare plan, which benefits some but still leaves a lot to be desired. If you think those are the only battles being waged over medical care, you’ve been living in a cave.  Healthcare in the United States is among the most politicized systems ever established. It’s politics on steroids.  It is about money, power, and greed; rarely, and sadly, is it ever about what it should be about: the well-being of patients and daily life-and-death battles waged by real people and their usually well-intended caregivers.

Each of the following will likely be a blog in the months to come, but, for now, simply consider the multitude of ways in which politics — not government — is affecting the way our medical care is focused and dispensed.

**On Obesity: We say we’d like to address the obesity epidemic in this country.  Certainly, First Lady Michelle Obama is doing her share with her “Let’s Move” campaign for children.  But are state and local governments — as well as businesses and insurance sectors — backing her?  Until obesity is recognized as a disease, like diabetes or mental disorders, its treatment will not be covered by insurance companies, meaning that only the well off will be able to afford treatment. Until the federal food-subsidy program is overhauled so that the healthiest foods — fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins — are more moderately priced than say, a starch-laiden extra-value meal — then obesity will continue to rule.  Until schools and corporations get serious about physical education and fitness as well as food services then youth and adults will continue to struggle with weight problems and productivity will suffer.

**On Health Insurance: Fewer doctors, psychologists, and other providers are accepting insurance, which, once again, means that quality healthcare is a privilege of the elite. We can’t necessarily blame the providers; they have to make a living.  We can blame the insurance industry, which makes it nearly impossible for doctors and psychologists to receive reimbursements that match the quality of their services.  But Republicans in Congress don’t want to overhaul the system.  Citizens, the GOP says, should be responsible for their own healthcare needs. What they really believe is that, were they to vote to make insurers behave ethically, were they to create an efficient and fair system, then they and their colleagues would lose millions in campaign funding and perks piled on by crooked insurance companies, who, frankly, don’t give a lick about your health or mine.

**On Women’s Health — Several states are lobbying to cut funds for women’s health clinics; others have already done so.  Such officials are balancing their budgets on the backs of poor and lower-middle-class women in need of health services. Then there’s the lack of more acceptable screening tools for breast cancer.  (We now have mammography that produces higher quality images while also producing more radiation. Swell.) And women’s heart disease awareness continues to lag.  I’ve interviewed women who’ve said they were having heart-attack symptoms when they were turned away from emergency rooms, simply because they “didn’t look like” a heart-attack victim, i.e. an overweight middle-aged man. These women’s lives were saved only because of their own insistence that something was wrong. Reality check: Many, many women with heart disease don’t look like they have heart disease and don’t manifest it in the same way as men.  If the system treated men and women equally, this would have been a non-issue years ago.

**On Doctors and Drug Companies: Too many doctors in clinical practice are accepting money from drug companies.  This is a clear conflict of interest, especially when it is not declared to patients and then those same patients are prescribed a medication that their doctor’s employer manufacturers.  In such cases, the drug companies are directing your healthcare, not the doctor.

These are some obvious examples but they only scratch the surface.

Stay tuned!

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