Anyone who’s recently visited a hospital in America knows the system is broken. Prices are outrageous, answers are slim, and insurance companies are insufferable. Each time I think about how the medical system in America is terrible, one of the only small comforts is that Canada’s healthcare situation is worse.
Still, we didn’t arrive here without a string of bad decisions leading to an overpriced, unhelpful, and increasingly woke medical system. So how did we get here?
Big Pharma, Carnegie, and Rockefeller
One gripe many have with the modern medical system is the rejection of diet, exercise, and natural medicine in favor of big pharma and a palmful of pills. But it wasn’t always this way.
Today’s medical system began in the early 1900s with the Flexner Report. This report was written by Abraham Flexner, published by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and funded by the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations. It advocated for sweeping reforms to the medical system. Flexner viewed natural remedies, taught by many medical schools at the time, as opposed to science.
The Flexner Report resulted in many complementary and alternative medicine programs and colleges closing. And more broadly, one estimate says that about 80 percent of the natural medicine institutions from the Flexner Report (everything from physical therapy to osteopathy to chiropractic treatments) closed.
Flexner’s proposed reforms included altering the structure of the medical education system, and his description is a striking mirror to the current medical university structure. And while his sweeping changes have undoubtedly been beneficial in some ways, they also created modern big pharma.
With natural medicine on the outs, modern pharmaceuticals have taken over. And it’s no wonder why: Pharmaceuticals can be protected by intellectual property laws, driving profit. There’s nothing wrong with a company wanting to be profitable, and modern medication can and does help many people. But in today’s environment of big pharma, many cure and treatment options are pushed out of the doctor’s office.
All of this is, of course, related to the big pharma lobby. In 2022, the industry that spent the most on lobbying in the U.S. was pharmaceuticals and health products. From 1999 to 2018, this industry spent $4.7 billion to lobby the U.S. federal government, and this number doesn’t even include money spent to fund political candidates.
Pharma doesn’t make money off your doctor telling you to go on a diet, exercise more, prioritize sleep, or get fresh air. But these companies can make money if obese children take medication, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended in its updated guidelines on childhood obesity.
In addition to big pharma, another group involved in the current state of medicine is the American Medical Association (AMA). The AMA is the professional organization for physicians in the U.S., and among other things, it lobbies the government and helps create guidelines for medical schools. But like many other institutions, the AMA is embracing left-wing ideology. For instance, in a 2021 guide, the AMA says:
Narratives grounded in white supremacy and sustaining structural racism, for example, perpetuate cumulative disadvantage for some populations and cumulative advantage for white people, and especially white men. … Narratives that uncritically center meritocracy and individualism render invisible the very real constraints generated and reinforced by poverty, discrimination and ultimately exclusion.
At the same time, the Association of American Medical Colleges is actively promoting this same narrative to up-and-coming doctors, and they partnered with the AMA on the above guide. Similarly, medical schools are looking for candidates who espouse leftist propaganda.
And the grip that medical schools and these organizations have on the industry means that professionals who do not agree with this progressive ideology are in a difficult position. It would not be surprising if the next step were revoking doctors’ licenses for wrongthink: California has come dangerously close to this with a law that would punish doctors for spreading COVID misinformation, though it does not precisely define what COVID misinformation is; this law was only stopped because it was blocked by a federal judge. It’s similar to what’s happening to Jordan Peterson in Canada with his psychology license. And it’s insane.
Any discussion of what’s wrong with the medical system would be incomplete without mention of government regulation. You can’t read the news these days without some politician talking about healthcare or health insurance. But will more bureaucracy really fix everything?
The foundation that has led to this structure of political rhetoric on healthcare was built about 50 years ago with the advent of Medicare and Medicaid. These programs made government the primary source of revenue for hospitals, and thus, the government suddenly had more power to tell hospitals what they could and couldn’t do. As a result, major decisions about healthcare are made for political reasons as much as medical or economic ones.
And since the 1960s, the iron fist of regulation has only tightened. The so-called Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has done no favors for our medical system either. Obamacare has made it so no one can opt out of health insurance and so the government tightly regulates insurance companies, rather than letting market forces (and consumers) reign.
On top of all that, getting competition into the medical market is tough. Opening a hospital in the U.S. is a nightmare:
- Doctors can’t own hospitals.
- In order to open a hospital in most states, the businessman has to prove to the government that the area needs a hospital and obtain a certificate of need (CON).
- Obtaining a CON can take months or years and can cost upward of $100,000.
- In most CON states, competitors to the proposed new hospital can object to the CON application.
In other words, in order to open a hospital in many states, a businessman has to prove to the government there’s a need for a hospital in the area, pay the government an exorbitant fee, wait months or years, and pray a competitor doesn’t say there’s no need for the hospital.
In short, in an environment like this, it’s no wonder that prices are so high: It’s nearly impossible to have any competition to drive them down.
Is There a Solution?
Perhaps the best thing for the healthcare system would be to get the government out of it. While we can obviously support politicians who will repeal regulations and oppose big pharma, this won’t bring immediate change.
In the meantime, as I wrote a few months ago:
We live in a golden age of information when many medical sources and journals are publicly accessible. Many of the sources that doctors are reading are available for you to critically assess. … While I don’t doubt there are fantastic doctors out there, they seem to be increasingly few and far between. It’s up to us to be informed participants in our healthcare decisions, ready and willing to advocate for ourselves.
While healthcare has advanced in leaps and bounds since the early 1900s, the natural medicine that was once relied upon remains available to us. Diet and exercise are still potent remedies, though they cannot cure broken bones.
And as the expression goes, knowledge is power. Understanding how and why the medical system is utterly broken gives us a starting place to repair it.
Image credit: Pexels-Sandy Torchon10 comments