Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Anathema! America's War on Medicine by Michael Pryce M.D. - Book Review
Health Care Reform is an issue that came to the forefront during the last national election. Nationalized health care, seriously pushed in the 1990's by then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, became a component of Presidential candidate, Barrack Obama's platform. People voted for his idea of "Together We Can" and the need for change in Washington. Only now it seems that Obama's idea of change might not be what they had in mind.
With tea parties taking place all over the country and heated debates in Congress, no one can deny that the health care system needs to be reformed. It's how to do it that remains a sticking point.
Anathema! America's War on Medicine: A Veteran Doctor Offers a Cure for What Ails America's Health Care System by Michael Pryce, M.D. could possibly hold some of the answers.
Pryce offers the idea of a universal health care plan not controlled by the government, funded without raising taxes, that uses what is already available in the private sector. In his three-step plan, health care in America would be restructured, liability rewritten, and a plan to manage risk formed.
This reader certainly learned a lot about America's health care system by reading Anathema! America's War on Medicine. Pryce speaks from his over three decades of experience as an orthopedic surgeon and medical expert. He also served on the Senatorial Inner Circle and Presidential Medical Roundtables during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.
The author takes the reader through the roots of the problem, which he says stem from "greedy hospital administrators, profit-hungry health-insurance executives, and government bureaucrats" who are more concerned with the bottom line than the welfare of the sick and injured.
Some of the interesting information discussed in Anathema! America's War on Medicine includes:
* The United States ranked 19th out of 19 nations in a British study that ranked leading industrialized nations on the rate of preventable deaths.
* "In 2005, the United States spent $6,697 per capita for health care--which is twice as much as five other industrialized nations."
* The United States health care system is primitive in its use of information technology.
* And here's something we've heard about lately, "many people suffer because they can't afford medical care."
Pryce indicates how having a common digital medical record will reduce cost. Right now, as Pryce explains, when a person switches doctors, the new doctor runs a whole new set of tests to determine a person's initial physical health when being taken on as a patient, because he doesn't have easy access to past medical history. His forms aren't the same as another doctor's forms and time is wasted regenerating information that should be easily accessible.
Within this discussion is the topic of "defensive medicine", which I have experienced on more than one occasion. Defensive medicine, as defined by Pryce, is "the practice doctors have developed whereby any and all diagnostic tests are ordered in an attempt to document the chart so that it cannot be used against them in a lawsuit."
He also brings up how liability coverage has skyrocketed, but he also mentions a hidden problem that speaks to issues outside of the medical field : fewer qualified candidates are applying to medical schools. Pryce goes on to state that while he hasn't seen signs of gross incompetence, the rising number of medical "mistakes" does seem cause for concern. And since attorneys make hefty fees when they win such cases against doctors (which is a small percentage of the time), the cost to obtain liability insurance stays at ridiculous levels.
One point Pryce also addresses is the amount of rules and complexities of regulations surrounding Medicare. Doctors and their staffs find themselves trying to comply with them and failing. And the rules change frequently, making it almost impossible to keep up with them all.
Overall, this reader believes Pryce makes excellent points and has a plan that is more sound than anything coming out of Congress. Where this reader sees issues with Pryce's ideas is that it can be hard to imagine anything of this nature could be taken on without the involvement of the federal government. Not that the government would be necessary to run the program, but that the government would insist upon being involved. Pryce is talking about taking the money that goes to premiums now and using that to fund this program. And how do health insurance companies not collapse under his plan seems a bit shaky to me. Pryce talks about insurance companies bidding for this business. What happens to the other guys in a realistic world?
The other challenge I have with this plan is that Pryce wants patients to pay for a portion of liability insurance, claiming that it is unfair for doctors to pay the full cost to protect themselves in case someone sues them. This opens up a whole can of worms for other industries to suddenly feel they shouldn't have to pay 100% of their own liability coverage either. I would prefer to see something proposed where if a patient brings a lawsuit against a doctor and loses, he has to pay all attorney fees for both sides.
I like the author's idea of having written standards of care, but why do doctors ever have a difference of opinion on how to treat patients if every diagnostic code should be standardized? Pryce says some doctors have developed their own style or approach to particular problems, but that leads to a lot of medical waste and raises health care costs. While I'm not prepared to argue that point, I still believe getting a second opinion can be important when dealing with certain medical issues, and can't, at this point, see how this portion of his plan would play out in the real world.
Anathema! America's War on Medicine is definitely a thought-provoking book. If you're at all interested in the current debate on Health Care Reform, and even if you're just looking to learn more about how America's health care system operates, it's definitely worth taking the time to read.
Title: Anathema! America's War on Medicine
Author: Michael Pryce, M.D.
Publisher: Trafford Publishing