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The tragedy of American healthcare

As an elderly physician who has practiced medicine for nearly fifty years I keep reflecting back on how and why we got to this place in our society today. Why is it that people no longer matter? When did we begin to judge the height of a man by how tall he is when he is standing on his billfold?

In 1968 when I graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine our country ranked first in the world in healthcare and education. Now we rank dead last among industrialized countries. No pun is intended when I say dead last. Many of our citizens are now dead and victims of American healthcare. Our healthcare system is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer. But let’s get real shall we. Healthcare in the United States is probably the leading cause of death if all the healthcare deaths were reported by the hospitals.

As you can well imagine hospitals are going to cover up bad results. I am sure they probably file them as something sounding less ominous, like collateral damage. You were supposed to live but you were unintended damage, collateral though it may be.

I think we got to this place in medicine when medicine started to be a truly capitalistic venture and the word humanitarian got shoved to the bottom of the pile, no longer important. Fifty years ago people truly entered the field of medicine to help their fellow man. As practicing physicians, many medical colleagues and I worked in free clinics where our services were given away to the needy. When I ask physicians about free clinics now they do not seem to be aware of them nor do they work in them. I personally do not see altruism and compassion in many of the young physicians today. I can sympathize with them. How do you develop a caring heart when a bean counter is standing behind you with a sharp stick telling you that you are falling behind on your quota. It is difficult.

Can young doctors going into medicine start a practice on their own today? From talking to young professionals, I sincerely doubt it. They have constraints of time and money and often leave training with tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. Times have changed. When you showed up at a bank in 1968 and asked for a loan, there were no problems getting one. The banks were quick to loan money to you based on your medical degree. I don’t think that is true anymore. How does a young doctor today without a track record borrow half a million dollars to start a practice and pay for malpractice insurance? Tough, if not impossible. The alternative is the young doctors are faced with working for large corporations and are simply a face and a number. They will dress the part, act the part and produce the required numbers or they are simply one more statistic; they are gone.

Let’s talk about this some more a little later. Please bear with me and stay tuned to Dr. Rick, the Maverick Doctor. Let’s help our new president Address the Mess.

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