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

The Best Piece of Financial Advice You’ll Ever Receive: Stay Healthy

The title of this piece should be in quotation marks because that advice is not my own. Based on my ineptness, I never give financial advice to anyone. Stock tips? I’m a Cumaean Sibyl in reverse. If ever money or finance come up in conversation, people who know me head for nearest exit in order to cut their losses.

This financial advice came from a patient, quoting her business school professor’s graduation speech: “Stay healthy. Stay very healthy.”

The professor probably assumed he was preaching to the converted. By the time most people finish a postgrad education, they usually know that a majority of the potential health issues they’ll confront are caused by unhealthful lifestyle choices. If you’re in a position to hire a new MBA who smokes or has cheeseburger breath, don’t bother. She was probably at the bottom of her class.

What I hope my patient’s forward-thinking professor conveyed, and am fearful he did not, is that once you enter the healthcare system as a consumer, whether as a casualty of unhealthful lifestyle or the recipient of a bad draw of the illness cards (diseases like MS or ALS can occur in those with the most pristine health habits), prepare for the sticker shock of your life.

Three guidelines for interacting with the US health system
I’ll add a corollary to the professor’s advice. The healthcare system in the US today is so dysfunctional–currently providing us with mediocre service (I’d rate it a C-) at egregiously inflated prices–that I suggest three rules:

  • Learn the finances of the system.
  • Question authority.
  • Get multiple opinions not only from other MDs, but also from so-called alternative practitioners as well.

In 1906, Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw had finished his play “The Doctor’s Dilemma.” Being a man of strong opinions, he was prone to writing prefaces to his plays that were occasionally longer than the plays themselves. Click here for the play’s preface and to see evidence that little has changed in 112 years. Most Westernized countries solved many of the issues Britain faced in 1906, and we still face today, by creating single-payer health systems.

According to Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury, just after winning the election President Trump opined “Why can’t Medicare simply cover everybody?” Sadly and perhaps predictably, the notion was promptly swept under the Congressional rug and repealing Obamacare became the Republican idee fixe.

I’ve written many Health Tips on this topic, most recently “Pigs at a Trough,” which embodies my view of the entire system, from insurers (both health insurance and disability insurance) and virtually all health care providers to the most astonishing goniffs on the planet, Big Pharma.

Over the next several Health Tips, I’m going suggest some tactics so that you don’t fall victim to a system driven, as one person remarked in a Health Tip comment, “by greed, waste, and inefficiency.”

I’ll mainly focus on insurance, primary and specialty care, hospitals, surgery, and pharmaceuticals, including some patient experiences I’ve heard over the years.

Three quick anecdotes
I recently had as a new patient an MD anesthesiologist from a well-respected hospital. I said, “I’m kind of embarrassed to ask this, but if anyone would know the answer it would be you. In your professional opinion, what percentage of surgical procedures are probably unnecessary?”

“Oh, maybe half,” he replied. (Right in line with the George Bernard Shaw preface mentioned earlier.)

I remarked to a highly respected orthopedic surgeon (not a back surgeon), “There seem to be more back surgeries than ever. Here at WholeHealth Chicago, with two chiropractic physicians and three acupuncturists, we see a lot of patients with back issues, but only a tiny percentage ever need surgery. What are the actual criteria for proceeding with back surgery?”

“Two criteria,” he said. “Does the patient have good insurance and does the patient have a back.”

New Big Pharma crime of the week. Rheumatologists prescribe high doses of ibuprofen (Motrin) for rheumatoid arthritis, sometimes as high as 800 mg three times a day. A dose like that can give you stomach ulcers, increase your risk for heart attacks and strokes, and cause chronic kidney disease. To reduce the stomach risks (but not the other risks), doctors recommend taking Pepcid (famotidine) with each ibuprofen.

The cost for 90 tablets of 800-mg ibuprofen is $12 (even without insurance) and for 90 tablets of famotidine about $17. Note that if you click these links, Walgreen’s generally has the highest  price.

Horizon Pharma, whose specialty is finding cheap orphan drugs and then price gouging (the same business model as that created by currently incarcerated Martin Shkreli), has released Duexis, which is dosed at one tablet three times a day.

You could take your daily three doses of 800-mg ibuprofen along with the three 40-mg famotidine tablets and your out-of-pocket expense would be about $29 a month.

Or your doctor could write you a prescription for Horizon’s Duexis, in which the two drugs are combined into a single pill you take three times daily. The difference is that 90 tablets of Duexis cost $2,400.

With a healthcare world as dysfunctional as this, follow the MBA prof’s advice and stay healthy. At the same time, start to learn more about how the system operates.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD





Leave a Comment

  1. Irina McSweeney says:

    Very very true!

  2. Amy T says:

    Two words:
    Lyme Disease

    It seems as if the risk factors include going outside or having a pet that goes outside.

    There are no standardized tests that accurately diagnose lyme and there are no universally effective treatments to cure lyme once it has gone past its initial 30 days. Insurance rarely covers lyme treatment and often dictates what a doctor can do to treat it.

    I keep thinking if insurance companies would put half the money they deny treating it into research for a test and a cure, it would save the healthcare system billions.

    Stay healthy and avoid ticks.

  3. John Pearson says:

    Thanks Dr. Edelberg,
    You once again demonstrate that a for-profit system is antithetical to the good health of patients. We do each need to take control of our own health care and seek out doctors and clinics like you and Whole Health Chicago.
    It seems like every time I am at a doctor’s office, along with the patients in the waiting room is a couple pharma salespeople.
    Thank you for the great advice, as always. Makes me thankful to be healthy…at the moment anyway.

  4. peter says:

    Just saw this:
    Amazon, JPMorgan, Berkshire creating new health care company

    “The ballooning costs of (health care) act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” Buffett said in a prepared statement.

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


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.

Join our Newsletter

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

Upcoming Workshops

**Facial Guasha Class
Thursday, March 12, 6:00–7:30pm
Hosted by Mari Stecker, LAc

Course Fee: $75.00
(Includes take-home facial guasha tool and custom anti-aging facial oil!)

Join us and learn a traditional Chinese facial rejuvenation technique that you can do yourself! Guasha treatment is a 2,000 year old Chinese massage technique that uses a flat tool to apply pressure to the skin to increase circulation as it moves along acupuncture channels. Learn more and register →

**Adrenal Boost!
Tue, April 28, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
With Naturopath Caley Scott and Yoga Therapist Renee Zambo

Course Fee: $75.00
(Includes custom adrenal herbal tincture and a description of yoga practices you can do at home.)

Feeling Tired? Need help improving fatigue? Learn to boost your energy! Dr. Scott will teach you about herbs that support your adrenal glands to help boost your energy and adapt to stress. Renee will teach practices that restore and build energy, support daily activities, and ensure sound rest at night. More →

Recent Health Tips

  • “My Breath Smells Like Poop!”

    Usually by the time someone comes to us at WholeHealth Chicago with this complaint, they’ve already taken the obvious route. Ralph, a healthy looking guy in his 30s and recently married despite his halitosis, had already seen: –His primary care physician, who wasn’t sure he noticed anything odd about Ralph’s breath at all, but suggested regular brushing, flossing, and tongue scraping. –His dentist, who did Read More

  • When Your Sex Drive is on Life Support

    Low desire? No more orgasms? Is your sexual enjoyment a nonexistent priority in your partnership? Sex is such a physical/emotional chore that you’d rather be burning the calories in a Pilates class? Part of our intake questionnaire at WholeHealth Chicago asks if you’re satisfied with your sex life and fully half of our newcomers either indicate no or leave it unanswered. This pretty much lines Read More

  • Breakthroughs in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

    To me, the greatest advance for the estimated 2.5 million adults, adolescents, and children with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has been the slow but steady acceptance of its very existence by the conventional medical community. This has been a real uphill battle and we’re encouraged to finally see some (guarded) victories. The first description of what would be later called chronic fatigue syndrome came in Read More

Join our Discount Program!

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