THE BLOG

Bogged Down By Special Interest, Health Care Reform Becomes a Political Tool Instead of a People's Right

09/19/2009 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

Prevention is a crucial element of healthcare reform. President Obama said that through prevention, Americans will become healthier and thus substantially reduce the costs of healthcare. He extolled the importance of training more primary care physicians, encouraging each and every one of us to take responsibility for getting and staying healthy and focusing on prevention.

But that was a few months ago when the president first presented his plan for a government run overhaul of our severely ailing healthcare system.

I for one, along with many of my patients, applauded the president.

We who live and work in the trenches where healthcare actually happens know how desperately needed a change of direction is.

We know first hand that all too often our hospitals are sources of more disease than cures, that patients get shuffled from specialist to specialist and test to test for years without improvements in their condition, that the insured are often treated just as poorly as the uninsured. We in the trenches watch in horror as some of our peers care more about how much money they make from a particular test, by prescribing a particular drug or by giving a lecture for a drug company, then spending an extra 5 minutes with a patient listening and caring. We in the trenches know that the system is overtaxed and the training of physicians is not of the quality or purity we need to keep the country healthy and thriving. We also know that the most advanced technologies or drugs will never make up for the humanity and care we are often unable or unwilling to give our patients for lack of time or maybe fear of getting sued.

Of course, each one of us is responsible for creating a positive outcome in our own lives, but in the case of healthcare we need a little more than good attitudes and perspective. We need some serious support. Support from our government was promised by President Obama during his campaign. We agreed it was needed. We needed change and voted for it.

Unfortunately, not much of what we truly need is included in the HS 3200 plan and the increasingly heated discussions we are faced with today.

Personally, as a practicing physician for more than 30 years, I felt betrayed and horrified to read the President had gone back on his word to avoid involvement with special interests by making a deal with the pharmaceutical lobby.

The White House secretly made a pact with the drug companies that was hammered out several months ago but only came to light a few weeks ago in all too few media outlets.

Although quite sketchy, this much we know: The drug companies, through their powerful lobby, agreed not to oppose any form of healthcare reform and offered $80 billion in cost savings over 10 years if the White House would protect them from having to shoulder additional financial burden in upcoming legislation.

Please note this is not about giving free drugs to poor people who cannot afford them and actually need them -- this is about keeping the drug cartel running the healthcare system.

This type of deal will make drug companies even more powerful and the country more addicted to prescription and other forms of "legal" drugs. Not exactly a promising start for a trend towards prevention. True prevention is about preventing disease and inherently diminishing the need or more drugs, regardless of cost.

The $80 billion "giveback" deal is a drop in the ocean for drug companies. If healthcare reform legislation is passed as is, it will give millions more American access to their products and result in windfall profits. That is, as long as the health care system continues on the path of status quo: more disease diagnosing, more testing, more drugs, less doctor-patient interaction.

The deal with the Administration guarantees drug companies a "seat at the table" as the reform process plays out and perpetuates their position as one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington regardless of which political party is in power. This does not bode well for the American public.

Never mind that too many drugs are proven to harm people more than help them, that drug companies influence physician practice, not only by paying for medical education but also through ghostwriting scientific articles published in respected medical journals. Never mind that drug companies advertise their drugs directly to the public while also sponsoring some of the most senior and highly respected medical groups and academic centers in this country.

Increasing access to drugs takes the focus off the real problem and allows the drug companies which already have destroyed the concept and reality of a free and safe health care system to continue their plan to benefit from America being sick and using drugs instead of shifting the focus to eating right, exercising and preventing disease.

Instead of worrying Americans about "death panels" and rationing of health care which is already in place with HMOs and other large insurance carriers, let's put the focus back where it belongs.

Do not allow America to continue being manipulated by special interest groups and help the people of America understand that they must control their own fate.

Let them start by learning how to eat right, exercise, sleep and be kind to themselves. Once these basic health care tips become part of the fabric of our society, we can focus on demanding that physicians and other health care providers work for us.

Healthcare is the ultimate service industry and should become exactly that. Once healthcare becomes solely about serving the public and not special interests, the solution to all our health care problems will be found.

Dr. Erika Schwartz is the Medical Director of Cinergy Health. For more information visit www.cinergyhealth.com.