Health And Other "Madders"
From InfoAve Premium - Issue #180 - March 30, 2007

One thing you don't find much of on the Web are newsletters, Web sites, and articles geared to those of us who have passed that stage in life where we're concerned about how good we look in bathing suits and whether or not we are being politically correct. I guess I'm referring to the "mature" crowd.

It's no secret, I suppose, that the subscribers to this newsletter are not generally in the "how-good-I-look-politically-correct" technophile "Me now! category of people. Whether this is a good thing or bad thing depends on your vantage point. I like to think of it as a good thing. You may disagree. Regardless, it appears that health issues are interesting to most of us who have graduated from the Pepsi generation (high fructose corn syrup and all).

The reason that I say this is because a recent rant entitled "White Rabbit" generated a lot of responses from you. If you didn't read "White Rabbit" let's just say that it wasn't a particularly flattering article about the medical profession - at least not the medical profession in the United States. One reader actually said that the U.S. has the best health care in the world and blasted Canada on their socialized "health care for all" program.

Of course, many of our Canadian readers who are much more familiar with the health care situation in Canada took exception to this criticism (written by an American reader). Me? I'm not changing my views on American health care. I think it's more about money than our health. If that isn't true, then perhaps the American Medical Association, doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, nurses, hospitals, and health care practitioners of all kinds, should hirer a political spin doctor and put the right spin on the health care industry. As far as I can see, the spin is mostly bad and over 95% of the American readers of "White Rabbit" seem to have an equally low opinion of our U.S. health care system and the medical profession in general. I've always believed where there's smoke there's fire. If everything is so peachy here, why do so many agree with me that the medical profession is more about money than health?

Then, wouldn't you know, I happened to be reading U.S. News and World Report and read some shocking things. I'm easily shocked, I'll admit, I live in a pretty isolated universe :). But, still I've have never believed that the U.S.A., the old Red, White, and Blue, was 46th in life expectancy behind such health care paragons such as Cuba and Costa Rica. I don't know about you but I'm both shocked and appalled that the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth is 40th in life expectancy.

Want more surprises? OK, how about these facts:

Fact #1: 32% of all American adults are obese. Now, that's more than fat, if I understand the term "obese". We're not talking about a little chunky or having a few extra pounds. Obese to me means "waddling fat".

Fact #2: America has more people in prison-2,135,900-than any other country in the world.

Fact #3: The U.S.A. is 92nd in distribution of wealth (UN measurement). In other words the top 5% live the best of all nations, and the bottom 25% live worse than in countries such as Greece. This disparity explains why the U.S. with the most expensive medical system is counted as 37th as to quality of care by the World Health Organization.

Fact #4:  Standard of Living? We (U.S.A.) aren't in the top five (we did nose out Iceland):

World Top 10 - Countries with Highest Standard of Living

  1. Norway
  2. Sweden
  3. Canada
  4. Belgium
  5. Australia
  6. United States
  7. Iceland
  8. Netherlands
  9. Japan
10. Finland

Fact #5 - Unnecessary Procedures?
(From The Boston Globe )"More than half a million people a year with chest pain are getting an unnecessary or premature procedure to unclog their arteries because drugs are just as effective, suggests a landmark study that challenges one of the most common practices in heart care. The stunning results found that angioplasty did not save lives or prevent heart attacks in non-emergency heart patients....

...About 1.2 million angioplasties are done in the United States each year. Through a blood vessel in the groin, doctors snake a tube to a blocked heart artery. A tiny balloon is inflated to flatten the clog and a mesh scaffold stent is usually placed...."

Guess what? An angioplasty costs someone (you or your insurance company) about $40,000. The drugs? They are almost all available in generic form. In other words - cheap. What's wrong with this picture? Someone, somewhere must have suspected that angioplasties were, for the most part, unnecessary, and began treating patients with inexpensive drugs. I don't imagine this caught on too well with most doctors (cardiologists) though. Can you sing "we're in the money"? (For the average doctor's salary by specialty see this page - poor guys and gals...they spent a million on education and it will take some of them over four years to recoup that investment!.)

Now, God Bless The U.S.A.; I love my country, but that doesn't mean I have to love all of the things I see going on around me. I really don't like a lot of things. I don't like our money-is-god medical system, I'd rather have a "the-patient-is-number-one" medical system. I don't like politicians. The word politician is synonymous with "liar" or maybe "crook". This isn't how our founding father envisioned it, I'll betcha! I don't think of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, or Abraham Lincoln as crooks.

There are no longer Democrats and Republicans. There are liberals and conservatives. To conservatives, liberal is a bad word. To liberals, conservative is bad word. There's no shades of gray in this country anymore, it's all black and white. It's either "my way or the highway" in Washington. No one ever thinks anyone else has a good idea. And of course the people are just collateral damage or collateral beneficiaries depending on your point of view. Maybe it's true. Maybe we are more of a plutocracy than a democratic republic. Government of the rich, for the rich, and by the rich. And any good that filters down to you and me is only because we are the collateral beneficiaries. I really hate to think this way, but when I see people who work hard to earn a living paying twice as much tax as those who make most of their money from capital gains (the wealthy), you have to wonder. Don't you?

So, am I blaming doctors, hospitals, politicians, drug companies, or government for our slide down the slippery slope? No. Each one of us, each person who lives in this country who stands quietly on the sidelines complaining about the way things are, feeling helpless, hopeless, and powerless to change things, is to blame. We allowed it to get this way. And the further down that slippery slope that the worship of power and money leads us, the harder it will be for our voices to be heard over the clinking of the almighty bling. Limitless power and limitless money breed limitless corruption. How many times have great societies been down the path that we're on right now. Does the Roman Empire ring any bells? Corruption, depravity, decadence, the worship of gold and power, and the lack of morality all contributed to the decline of that once glorious civilization. Now when we think of Rome we think of Italy. And I think of ravioli and spaghetti - both of which are pretty good for you, so they say. At least better for you than that cholesterol-laden, fat-filled steak, and those trans-fatty fries you're about to stuff into your mouth :)

Our health-care system is almost out-of-control now. And, the worship of power and money, coupled with greed and a careless "give a darn" attitude about the public's perception of doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and the health care system in general, is going to cause it to spiral totally out of control soon. And who is going to suffer the most? The very people who need it most. The sick and the dying. You know, I really don't think anyone who matters actually really cares.

The health-care-system's cancer is just making me madder. And, I don't have a cure. I don't have a solution. The politicians are on the take from medical insurance companies, the American Medical Association, hospital associations, and pharmaceutical companies and we all stand somewhere on the outside watching it all taking place. When we vote it's like a choice between crook "A" and crook "B". Which crook do you trust more? Then they wonder why 40% of the people don't exercise their right to vote. I'm sure you've thought about it and sometimes it you wonder why you should even bother going through all the trouble to vote if your choices are crook #1 or crook #2. Sometimes the only reason I vote is to vote on issues that are important to me. I just leave the voting for liar "A" or liar "B" to others, because in the end, I know it won't make any difference to me which one gets elected.

But the health care mess is just one symptom of the cancerous tumor of apathy and greed that is growing in our country. If you think it's just my cynicism running rampant; think again. I'm really sad things are this way. I'm really sad that it's come to the point where it costs one billion dollars (that's what they say it will take to get elected in 2008) to become president. That pretty much dictates the kinds of folks who will run for president. Doesn't it?

It's not good. I'm sad that things are the way they are. I hope reading this fires some of you up a little and maybe if all of us get fired up enough we can change things. I sure hate to think we've reached the point on the slippery slope where we can't turn around and start climbing back to the top again.

Some may not think I'm a patriot. I think I'm the best kind of patriot; one who does not follow leaders blindly, who thinks and wonders about the way things are and how they got this way. I am one who thinks things could be better. We're still a great country but remember that nothing created by the hand of man is perfect. We could be doing a lot better. If patriotism means keeping quiet, turning my head and blindly going along with things, while our great country moves further and further away from country the founding fathers envisioned nearly 250 years ago, then I'm not a patriot. But, I know that I am.

I am thankful that I live in a country where I can speak out against the things I feel are wrong - without fear. I hope that we never grow so apathetic or politically blind that we wake up some morning to find we've lost the freedom to speak out for what we believe is right.

Have they really taken "under God" out of our Pledge of Allegiance? I hope not. Let us hope they aren't going to replace it with " nation, under GOLD, with liberty and justice for some".

Maybe, out there, somewhere, there is another Abraham, Thomas, or George  who can turn things around with some good old-fashioned common sense; real (not feigned) decency and morality; and honest-to-goodness honesty and humility.

Maybe it's still not too late to get our country back - the country where it's OK to say the Pledge Of Allegiance the right way - " nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all".

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