Panaceia or Hygeia

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Posts Tagged ‘USA’

“Health” spending in Canada hits $172-billion, outpacing inflation

Posted by Colin Rose on November 14, 2008

Drugs now cost more than doctors and the cost is rising faster than inflation. Sooner or later this insanity has to end. Probably sooner. With a likely world-wide depression in the next few years there will be awakening awareness that most of those expensive branded drugs, such as Lipitor and Crestor, are for lifestyle diseases, like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and atherosclerosis, related to junk food addiction which can be prevented and treated without drugs. But we need to take a $few billion of that $172 billion and put it into addiction research. Addictions of many kinds are at the root of most of the problems of developed capitalist democracies.

Note that Japan which spends per capita on its “health care” system only 38% of the USA and 70% of Canada has a longer life expectancy than either. Ergo, there is no relation between money spent on hospitals, drugs and doctors and life expectancy; if any, there is an inverse correlation. While everyone uses the term “health care” for the activities and effects of hospitals, drugs and doctors, these are really disease care. Some diseases can be cured but most can’t and in a high tech, fee-for-service medical system with an incentive only to do more, more people will be killed by the technology than saved by it.

Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe and Mail suggests as a solution to exponentially increasing costs more private “health” care. That will only increase the total cost as people with just spend more to support their addictions. Doctors in a fee-for-service regime will be only to happy to oblige. The only long-term solution I can see is to put all doctors on a salary. In such a system the driving incentive is to keep people healthy so doctors have less work to do. Paying doctors per disease is like paying firemen per fire. Would there be more or less fires? Would there be any incentive for fire departments to promote fire prevention? In a regime of totally salaried doctors costs would drop dramatically and the health of the population would markedly improve.


Health spending hits $172-billion, outpacing inflation
BY BRADLEY BOUZANE Canwest News Service
National Post
14 Nov 2008

OTTAWA  Health care in Canada will cost $172-billion this year, or nearly $5,200 for every person in the country, according to figures released yesterday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. The independent statistical agency says that…read more…

cihi-canada-world-healthcare-cost
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From the Globe and Mail, November 19, 2009

Listening to the sounds of health-care silence

JEFFREY SIMPSON

Where did health care go? Pollsters keep reporting that health care is the No. 1 issue for Canadians. We spend way more on it than on anything else. Yet, no one – well, almost no one – talks about it any more, at least not politically.
Sure, citizens recount their experiences with the system to each other. People who work in the system talk about it incessantly, health care being their world.
But as a public policy/political issue, health care has died. Died, despite the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s reporting last week that Canada will spend $172-billion this year on health, about 70 per cent from public sources. That works out to $5,170 per capita.
Health care gobbles up provincial (and federal) resources. It consumes 39 per cent of all provincial program expenditures – that is, spending on everything but  servicing the debt. In some provinces, health care’s share of program expenditures is 45 per cent. Soon, it will be 50 per cent and higher in all of them.
Health care consumed 7 per cent of the nation’s economic output in the mid-1970s, shortly after it was up and running. Now, it consumes 10.7 per cent. That share will keep on rising as the population ages, technology becomes more expensive, and demand grows.
No one knows how to stop the increase; in fact, large increases are hardwired into government spending plans. These increases are not improving the system, but they are keeping it from getting discernibly worse.
The Paul Martin government signed a deal with the provinces for a $41-billion transfer from Ottawa over 10 years starting in 2004-2005, with the transfer indexed yearly to 6 per cent. The Harper Conservatives, then in opposition, signed on to that deal and have never wavered.
Without that federal cash, provincial health-care plans would be struggling or imploding – or provinces would be forced to raise taxes or cut other services. As it is, their annual costs are rising by 4 per cent to 5 per cent after inflation. The federal cash keeps their systems afloat.
That’s one reason why silence surrounds the health-care debate. Caterwauling provinces can hardly complain about parsimonious Ottawa when such mighty rivers of federal cash are flowing their way. Similarly, almost complete silence reigns within federal politics, except for occasional election promises to spend  yet more money for provinces to hire more doctors. But with Ottawa already sending so much money to provincial capitals, these chirpings ring hollow.
It was cheap theatre for provinces to beat up on Ottawa when the federal government seemed to be rolling in dough. But after the Harper government spent the surplus it inherited by shovelling money to the provinces for the ‘fiscal imbalance,’ cut federal revenues through reductions to the GST and let spending proceed above the inflation rate, the surplus almost disappeared.
Now, with the economic tsunami upon us, the small surplus will head into deficit. Even if provinces clamoured for more health-care money, there wouldn’t be any.
The deeper reason for the silence is that no provincial government knows what to do about the system, except to keep it going, fiddle at the edges, try to improve administration here and there, negotiate the best collective bargaining agreements they can.
Nowhere in Canadian public affairs is the gap so wide between what those responsible for policy say and what they do. Privately, almost all of those responsible know that the spending increases are unsustainable and that some means must be found to allow more public services to be delivered privately.
Publicly, none of them dare say so.
Without that debate – and fear of public reaction keeps it closed – politicians spin their wheels, spend lots of money, patch the system, add something new here and there, and carry on.
The only idea for lowering the increase in health-care costs comes from those who claim, rightly, that the fastest-rising part of health-care budgets is the drug bill. Their answer: a national pharmaceutical plan integrated into medicare.
It might be recalled that, in 1997, Quebec introduced such a drug plan. It cost the treasury about $700-million that year. This year, the public cost will be $2.3-billion, a threefold increase in about a decade.

Posted in atherosclerosis, diabetes, diet, drugs, statins | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Dan, the hospital doctor, is shocked, SHOCKED

Posted by Colin Rose on July 30, 2008

This post appeared recently in the ProCOR list.

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As a medical resident I have encountered an interesting case that raises the question of reversibility and education of the pre/early diabetic group.

The case is of a 38-year-old male that presented to a screening physical examination without any complaints apart from the hardships of life. Past medical history is significant for recent diagnosis of hypertension for which he receives a calcium channel blocker. Family history is positive for type 2 diabete with his father, no coronary syndromes in his family, and his lipid profile is unremarkable. Physical exam reveiled an obese young man (BMI of 33) with controlled blood pressure and the rest of the exam was unremarkable. His initial fasting glucose was >200mg% and soon after HbA1c came back as 12. The patient denied any diabetic related symptoms. The patient was very reluctant to start any kind of diabetic regiment and strongly insisted on a sugar free diet and weight reduction only strategy. The patient went home with his own idea of managing his newly diagnosed diabetes. He did not appear for later follow ups.

But we DID meet again, two months afterwards. This time the patient is with a BMI of 27. He explained to me that he was so shocked from the diagnosis. He just started running around the block and eating a very restricted vegetarian diet. His HbA1C was 6 and fasting glucose levels were normal, and he did return to eating sugar containing foods.

Now he insisted he doesn’t have diabetes. Does he? Was he cured? Did he go back to the pre-diabetic phase? Or is he overt diabetic only controlled by diet? Was the decrease in weight that much of an influence? Apperantely so.

Dan Halpern

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As a resident in the usual hospital environment, Dan has probably been taught that diseases can only be treated with drugs and/or surgery. Coincidentally, these are the acts to which doctors have exclusive rights and for which they can charge high fees. He was shocked, SHOCKED to discover that a patient might know how to treat his own disease without the help of the vaunted American “health care” system and that what he had been taught in the hospital has very little relevance to outpatient practice.

Dan has learned a valuable lesson which he should apply to his future practice. Today most of the fatal diseases are diseases of lifestyle and the only definitive treatment is lifestyle change. Blood glucose, blood lipids, blood pressure, etc. are all markers of lifestyle in the vast majority of cases, not diseases to be treated with drugs until lifestyle has been optimized. There is increasing  evidence that some of these markers may actually be protective responses to nutritional stress analogous to a fever in response to an infection. Obviously there are varying genetic predispositions to the effect of self-destructive lifestyles but as they say, genes load the gun, environment pulls the trigger.

So, yes, Dan’s patient did cure himself of Type 2 diabetes and probably hypertension as well. He probably doesn’t need any drugs.

Now if we could only get all doctors to treat lifestyle diseases with lifestyle change before prescribing drug of doing operations we could save hundreds of billions of dollars in disease care costs, close many hospitals, shut down many drug companies and many doctors would have to make a living actually talking to patients. Isn’t that the essence of being a professionial?

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Cubans do not measure “cholesterol” and live longer than Americans

Posted by Colin Rose on March 10, 2007

Cubans don’t measure their blood cholesterol obsessively as recommended by “guideline” committees in the US, Canada and Britain, on which sit doctors paid in various ways by statin manufacturers. Statins are almost impossible to get in Cuba but Cubans live longer than Americans who spend $US billions on statins like Lipitor. Cubans eat mostly a unrefined plant-based diet, have few cars and have less obesity. And Cuba spends only 4% of what the US does on “health” care per capita. Just think of what we could do with more than a trillion dollars PER YEAR. That would fund a few manned trips to Mars every year not not to mention funding free university education, cleansing the environment, obliteratiing infectious disease and poverty…

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U.S. healthcare costs more than Cuba’s and may not have an edge in helping people live longer, but Cubans often lack prescription drugs and over-the-counter remedies.

BY JOHN DORSCHNER

jdorschner@MiamiHerald.com

The average Cuban lives slightly longer than the average American, but the American’s healthcare costs $5,711 a year while the Cuban’s costs $251.

Those are the figures of the World Health Organization. Some experts question the accuracy of the Cuban numbers, but no one doubts the underlying revelation: There is little relationship between the cost of your healthcare and how long you’ll live.

”Medical care is responsible for only a small portion of the variation in life expectancy,” says Gerard Anderson, a Johns Hopkins professor specializing in health policy. “Behavioral factors such as diet and exercise are much more important. The U.S., which spends much more than any other industrialized country on healthcare, is getting little value for much of the spending.”

These factors have moved to the forefront of the American political discussion as leaders in both major parties work toward solving what almost everyone agrees is a ”healthcare crisis,” with soaring costs threatening to increase the numbers of the uninsured, which already include 46 million Americans.

In such a discussion, Cuba serves as the starkest possible contrast, a completely government-controlled system in which ailing leader Fidel Castro benefits from the best possible care, including consultations with a Madrid surgeon, while many Cubans struggle to get basic treatment.

Here are the numbers: The average American has a life expectancy of 77.8 years, as of 2006. The average Cuban lives 78.3 years. Even if the Cuban figure is inflated, no one disputes the statistics from European countries, where people tend to live a year or two longer than in the United States — at about half the healthcare costs per capita.

At its highest level, most people agree, the United States has top-quality care. The country offers the latest magnetic resonance imaging, robotic-arm surgeries and drugs to deal with cholesterol, acid reflux and arthritis pain.

Americans want the biotech drug to target tumor cells, but many don’t get basic preventive screening tests. That’s particularly true for the uninsured, who often avoid treatment until their condition sends them to the emergency room.

Cuba offers universal healthcare and has twice as many doctors per capita as the United States. The Cuban government did not respond to The Miami Herald’s request for comment via telephone or e-mail, but its publications have boasted that the country is one of the world’s leaders in healthcare. Ann C. Seror, a professor at Laval University in Quebec, Canada, says Cuba has “achieved a remarkable level of healthcare quality of life for its citizenry.”

But six Cuban doctors The Miami Herald interviewed — two dissidents still on the island, four now in Miami — say many prescription drugs and even over-the-counter remedies are nearly impossible to get, and patients sometimes have long waits in clinics unless they pay bribes.

One irony is that poverty has forced Cubans into a healthier lifestyle. Juan A. Asensio, a University of Miami trauma surgeon and a Cuban American who is certainly no friend of the Castro regime, put it this way: “No McDonald’s, and Cubans walk everywhere or ride bikes because they can’t afford cars.”

About one in 10 Cubans are obese, according to the Pan American Health Organization. In the United States, one in three are obese, ”increasing risks of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and osteoarthritis,” according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Still, the aging American, no matter his weight, can lay claim to a more comfortable life, with access to everything from Advil to Pepto-Bismol and Viagra — products virtually nonexistent in Cuba.

As Nestor Viamonte, a physician who left Cuba in 2003, puts it: “There’s a difference between a 75-year-old with quality of life and a 75-year-old without quality of life.”

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