Paying More to Get Less
- Pages: 6
- Word count: 1362
- Category: Doctor
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If there is one thing in life that is almost always a guarantee, it is that each individual will need some sort of health care at some point in life. There are copious businesses that make profits and individuals who have jobs and support their families because of this notion. The abundance of these businesses makes up the United States Health Care System. This system works in tandem with healthcare professionals to improve the overall well-being of individuals who need it, and it is a great service to have. However, as with anything that is great, there are flaws and problems.
According to Froemke & Heineman’s documentary Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare (2012), roughly one-third of the $2.7 trillion that is spent on healthcare every year does not actually improve health outcomes, and 75% of it is spent on conditions that can easily be prevented. Heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, and infectious diseases are just a few of the health conditions that can be largely prevented. For example, heart disease and diabetes can be prevented by living a lifestyle that involves a healthy diet and adequate, regular exercise. Many infectious diseases can easily be prevented with vaccines or by simply keeping a sick child away from populated areas such as schools and daycares. Lung cancer can be prevented by the avoidance or cessation of cigarette smoking. Sexually transmitted infections can be prevented by wearing protection during sexual intercourse or by simply abstaining from sexual activities. Many of the major causes of death in the United States are actually very preventable. Because so many people in the United States are unmindful of this, money must be spent to receive treatment when these infections and diseases develop.
Increasing Costs and Spending
Health care is costly, and it is continuing get more expensive every year. Because it is so expensive, many people are unable to afford the care they need to improve their overall well-being. According to Cutler (2012), the main reason why healthcare costs are so high is because the administrative costs of running the healthcare system in the United States is outrageously high. According to Henson (2018), healthcare costs continue to rise because individuals are living and working longer, resulting in a shift from traditional payment methods, such as Medicare, to more private and commercial methods of payment. Although people are living longer, the United States continues to rank much lower than other developed and industrialized countries in regard to average life expectancy. In fact, according to Alexander, Lindsay, & Merrill (2018), the United States ranked 28th among all countries in average life expectancy in 2016 despite the astronomically high amount of healthcare spending. Defensive medicine is another interesting reason why healthcare costs are so high. According to Jena & Seabury (2016), defensive medicine is defined as the practice of ordering various tests and treatments to make an accurate diagnosis and treat it appropriately to reduce the risk of malpractice liability. In other words, many doctors will order multiple tests, procedures, and treatments because they are afraid of getting sued. This requires patients to pay more money, and they do it with a combination of out-of-pocket expenses, co-pays, insurance premiums, and taxes. This, of course, increases spending on healthcare even further.
More Can Means Less
In the documentary by Froemke & Heineman (2012), medical journalist Shannon Brownlee articulates about a study performed by a team at Dartmouth Medical School that concluded that patients receiving more care, including more tests, drugs, operations, and time in the hospital, than other patients with the same exact health problem do not necessarily have better health outcome. In fact, she mentioned that these patients were actually more likely to die. The overuse of different drugs and treatment is unnecessary when a patient does not need them. It leads to unnecessary costs and may actually waste precious time, possibly resulting in a poor health outcome.
Overmedication has become a problem in the United States. The total amount of spending on medications is outrageously high. According to the documentary by Froemke and Heineman (2012), $300 billion is spent on pharmaceutical drugs every year, which is almost as much as the rest of the world is spending on pharmaceutical drugs combined. Medications have become a wonderful thing for patients who need them to improve a certain medical condition. Conversely, many of these medications are being advertised to individuals who do not really need them. This can lead to negative outcomes for the patient and the doctor. Many of the same generic medications are used by various different companies under different brand names. This increases healthcare costs because these companies are competing against each other to make the highest profit. Because drugs are being advertised, more consumers are asking doctors for specific drugs. This can negatively impact the doctor because he or she may have to spend time explaining why the consumer should use a different drug or no drug at all. It may take the consumer a long time to understand the rationale behind choosing a specific drug, which may take away time for the doctor to see other patients.
Advertisement of drugs can also negatively impact the consumer because certain drugs may do more harm to a patient that does not need it than good. This results in more medical care needed, increasing the amount of money spent on healthcare. Other countries may not allow the advertisement of prescription drugs because physicians are seen as more of a significant political power than the pharmaceutical companies, whereas it is the opposite in the United States.
The documentary by Froemke & Heineman (2012) covers Yvonne Osborne, who had been treated for heart disease for over 15 years since she was 34 years of age. She suffered a heart attack at the age of 35 and underwent a bypass surgery, which was followed by 27 cardiac catheterizations and over 7 stent placements over time. Eventually the doctor told her that he did not know what else to do. Unfortunately, these types of procedures only reduce symptoms of heart problems and can lead to more problems. Yvonne was never properly educated on healthy lifestyle changes that could have decreased her heart problems and the number of cardiac catheterizations and stent placements. The more these types of procedures are performed, the higher the risk of more heart problems and, of course, the more money required to spend on these procedures. Because Yvonne’s heart problems continued to occur, she endured more stress about the lack of improvement, which can physiologically affect the heart in a negative way.
Specialized medicine has become a huge part of medical practice. A specialist in medicine is someone who has had more education on a specific aspect of medicine and is more knowledgeable about that branch of medicine than a general practitioner. Referring patients to a specialist has become very popular and can be consequential. Referring patients to different specialists can be costly and inefficient. This inefficiency can lead to disorganization and confusion, resulting in the wrong diagnosis, the wrong medication, the wrong treatment, overmedication, or overtreatment. This can waste time and ultimately result in a worse health outcome. Because many primary physicians get paid by the number of patients they see, it is easier for them to just refer the patient to a specialist. This increases costs and adds to the aforementioned consequences of overspecialization.
Many of the health problems Americans have and the health problems that lead to the highest rates of mortality in the United States are largely preventable. Many of these problems may only require healthy lifestyle changes, vaccinations, inexpensive over-the-counter medications, or specific prescription medications. When these health issues are not primarily prevented, they require more medical attention and care, increasing the amount of money spent on healthcare. There are many reasons why healthcare spending is outrageously today, including administrative costs, overmedication, branding and advertising of medication, overtreatment, and overspecialization of medicine. All of the aforementioned processes and their negative consequences occur in conjunction with each other and form to run a complete full circle that constantly increases healthcare costs, while health outcomes counteractively continue to be much worse than in many other advanced and industrialized countries.