2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Health Care Reform and You (and Me)

Posted 08/11/2009

As the Washington battles over health care reform continue, these past weeks have left me seriously conflicted. My moods swing between glee at the thought of health care reform and gloom as it seems we’ve once again capitulated our country’s needs to corporate bottom lines. You’d think that as a lifetime Chicagoan, I’d be used to this by now.

From the looks of it, if any health care reform gets passed, the costs will be enormous, with the overruns channeled into the giant private health insurance companies which, to quote a long-dead and once-jailed Illinois politician “can smell that meat a-cookin’.”

The result I’m anticipating seems a far cry from a system that would give equal health care coverage for all.

If you want a reasonable analogy to our current health care system, it might be helpful to compare it to cancer. Yes, that’s right. The health care system has become America’s cancer and unless its growth is stopped, it may ultimately destroy our nation.

The first malignant cell appeared in 1973 when Congress passed the HMO bill (bipartisan, by the way, authored by Teddy Kennedy and signed by Richard Nixon), essentially encouraging health care for profit. In the ensuing 35 years, this cancer has metastasized throughout the entire health care system. Simple greed compels everyone to seek a piece of the action.

• Health insurance companies rake in incredible profits. UnitedHealth Group’s CEO Bill McGuire has earned $3 billion in salary and options–that’s not a typo–while the people his company insures grovel for their benefits and doctors file lawsuits against United for reimbursement.

• Pharmaceutical companies license drugs developed abroad before marketing them to the US public at prices many times the price the identical drug sells for in the country that developed it (Forest Labs CEO Howard Solomon’s paycheck for this creativity was $36 million).

• Hospitals bill patients and insurance companies as if someone’s finger was stuck on the “0” button. My wife’s recent four-day stay tabbed in at $95,000. My five-minute skin cancer removal $5,000.

• Even relatively small players try to cash in. Medical equipment suppliers sell aluminum walkers for $250, when you can buy one in any resale shop for $5. Medical laboratories bill insurance companies (and patients) hundreds of dollars for blood tests that cost pennies to perform.

• And, believe me, there’s no national tag day in the works for most doctors, whose mantra for 30 years has been “Bill ‘em high, bill ‘em often.”

In the end, we spend mountains of dollars on pretty mediocre health care. Europe and Canada have far better health statistics than the US. When I last checked, we were not quite at third-world levels, but somewhere close to the Balkans. Those stalwarts who continue to believe America’s health care system is so great remind me of the old joke about the restaurant where the food is awful but you keep going because the portions are huge.

If the health care system continues unchecked like this, we’ll be wiped out economically–both individually and as a nation. See? It’s like cancer.

But to carry the analogy one step further, there are, sadly, few magic bullet treatments for cancer. Although I myself would like to awaken one morning with universal single-payer health care a la Canada, I am realistic enough to know there are probably too many vested interests, too many lobbyists, too much money involved, and too much public confusion for this to occur in my lifetime.

In reality, cancer is a chronic illness with setbacks and gains. These days more and more cancer patients live for decades, often dying of old age or illnesses utterly unrelated to their formerly-fatal diagnosis.

It’s going to be this way with health care, our 21st century “chronic illness.” We’ll see a major gain when Obama’s bill passes–at least there won’t be 50 million uninsured Americans. The trade-off is that a lot of the people paying for it won’t really see much of an improvement and the lion’s share of tax dollars earmarked for health will continue to make the rich richer.

For me, as a practicing physician of many decades, I do embrace Obama’s broad outline of a plan. Every single work day as long as I can remember, I’ve been compelled to make uncomfortable decisions about what diagnostic tests, treatments, and specialists any given patient can afford. I’m disappointed that supporters of Obamacare had to relent on so many important points and feel a knot in my stomach when I see a photo in the news of an unemployed (and likely uninsured) single mom holding up a sign that reads “Fight Obamacare.” Somebody paid her to hold that sign, likely so she could feed her kids.

I urge you to click two articles. First, this New York Times editorial entitled “Health Care Reform and You.” It’s a couple weeks old, so it’s dated already. Nonetheless, the decisions Congress makes in the next few weeks will affect us all for decades to come.

Second, sent to me by my editor Heidi Hough, whose friends report you can see smoke coming from her ears when she reads about the way the health care bill is going. Here’s why.

Leave a Comment


Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Telemedicine – Now Available at WholeHealth Chicago

In order to maintain your continuity of care, WholeHealth Chicago now offers telemedicine appointments with most of our practitioners. During a telemedicine visit, you and your healthcare provider can review medical history, discuss symptoms, arrange for prescriptions, and more. When necessary, labs and diagnostic imaging can be ordered from a facility near your home, and our Natural Apothecary can ship supplements quickly to your door.

Please contact Patient Services for details and scheduling a telemedicine appointment, or to change a regular appointment to telemedicine by calling 773-296-6700.

We’re looking forward to meeting with you in our virtual consultation room soon.

DIAGNOSE-IT-YOURSELF: COVID-19

Far and away, the commonest phone call/e mail I receive asks about COVID-19 diagnosis.
Just print this out, tape it on your refrigerator door, and stay calm.

ALLERGIES

• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Red, swollen eyes
• Itchy eyes and nose
• Tickly throat
• No fever

COLD
• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Sore throat
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild dry cough
• Rarely a low fever

STREP THROAT
• Painful sore throat
• Hurts to swallow
• Swollen glands in neck
• Fever

FLU (Standard seasonal flu)
• Fever
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Sudden onset over few hours
• Headache
• Sore throat
• Fatigue, sometimes quite severe
• Muscle aches, sometimes quite severe
• Rarely, diarrhea

CORONAVIRUS-COVID 19
• Shortness of breath
• Fever (usually above 100 degrees)
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Slow onset (2-14 days)
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild fatigue
• Mild sneezing

Recent Health Tips

  • The Flu Shot: Now More Important Than Ever

    When it comes to the flu shot, I take a far more conventional approach than many WholeHealth Chicago patients expect of a doctor who considers himself alternative/integrative. It’s also worth noting that after reviewing some of the online advice warning people away from the flu shot, it’s my sense that this is frequently followed by “…and this is my product you can buy instead.” So Read More

  • Lyme Disease In Your Nervous System: Three Cases

    “Why am I limiting this to only three cases?” I wondered. Physicians who treat Lyme, like our group at WholeHealth Chicago where we see a lot of Lyme disease patients, would tell you there are so many manifestations of Lyme when it invades the nervous system that I really should list as many as possible. But to keep this Health Tip manageable, we’ll keep it Read More

  • The Heartburn That Wouldn’t Quit

    Dierdre had written “I want to get off my heartburn medicine” on her WholeHealth Chicago intake form. This, by the way, was a tele-med appointment. I’ve actually never met her in person. We changed Dierdre’s name to respect her privacy, but her story is worth sharing. Dierdre was in her 30s and had been working at home at one of the many jobs people can Read More

Join our Discount Program

Member benefits include 10% off all your purchases. Low, one-time membership fee of $25 ($35 for family).

MORE INFORMATION

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!