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"and there’s much more to come". Indeed.
Most of us drive our vechicles very carefully, even though we have insurance to cover accidents.
But suppose you had no insurance. (I periodically went without it when I was a young adult and earning a pittance.) Think how much more carefully you'd drive! And how much more slowly. Yes, you would. And you'd likely drive less. (And maybe walk more and become healthier for it.)
For many people, I suspect, the better their auto insurance, the more they tend to drive and to drive faster and to drive less guardedly. (For proof of that, keep imagining how we'd drive without insurance.) That means more accidents in which people are killed and injured. Although insurance is a wonderful thing — preventing, for example, countless bankruptcies — it might have the unintended consequence of causing more accidents and more deaths and injuries than if no one had insurance.
In a report on how to fight pandemics, the March 2012 Discover magazine says the secret to fighting them is “knowing their real cause: disease factories built by people. Ironically, hospitals turn out to be highly efficient disease factories. They allow the proliferation and spread of dangerous germs among patients, and the evolution of those germs to extreme levels of virulence.”
In that vein, the Journal of the American Medical Association stated 12 years ago:
“America's healthcare system is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., causing between 230,000 and 284,000 fatalities per year, behind only heart disease and cancer.”
The report didn't say the third leading cause of death is poor health. It said the healthcare system itself. In other words, the third leading cause of death is the army of good-intentioned doctors, nurses, and others whose duty it is to help us avoid death.
JAMA provides a breakdown of the deaths caused by healthcare:
• 12,000 deaths per year due to unnecessary surgery
• 7,000 deaths per year due to medication errors in hospitals
• 20,000 deaths per year due to other errors in hospitals
• 80,000 deaths per year due to infections in hospitals
• 106,000 deaths per year due to negative effects of drugs
You may already hear me asking, “Why don't we drop our health insurance and stay away from doctors?”
If no one had health insurance, lots of things could happen, good and bad. Here's a quirky thing I believe is possible:
In 2008, shortly after the economic collapse, I was watching a CNN reporter interview a woman on the street. She had just lost her job. The reporter asked how she was coping.
“Along with my job, I lost my health insurance,” she said [I paraphrase]. “Now I have to really be careful to watch what I eat, lose weight, exercise, and take better care of myself.” I got the impression that while she had health insurance, she tended to be a bit reckless with her health, figuring she was covered if she got sick. Some people, maybe many, are like that.
Without health insurance, she became like the driver with no car insurance.
Enter President Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA), whose aim is to get everyone insured and require everyone to pay a premium.
A lot of young adults currently elect to have no health insurance (as I did years ago) because of its cost, or because they want to save money while they're young and healthy. Once they are forced to buy insurance under AHA, many can be counted on to frequently see a doctor for minor things simply “to get my money's worth.”
How many more people, because they have insurance, will pay less attention to diet and exercise like CNN's woman on the street, and develop medical problems (such as diabetes) that require visits to the doctor that they would not have had to make while uninsured and cautious?
AHA will bring millions of more people into the healthcare system and countless others into it more often. It's supposed to, because Mr. Obama wants to spread the health around. The upshot is that millions more will interact with the healthcare providers who are, according to JAMA, our nation's third leading cause of death.
The doctors and nurses, unless there is a huge increase in their already insufficient number, will be stressed by the increased demand for services. Their rate of errors is likely to rise.
Might our healthcare system then become the second leading cause of death? Or maybe even the first?
Just what are we doing?Mar 22, 2012