Labor Law Guy

Medical-Industrial Complex Wants You to Be Abnormal

Posted in Random Musings by laborlawguy on August 14, 2009

An interesting opinion piece in the New York Times traces how the medical-industrial complex has been in cahoots for quite some time now developing new tests and devices and then forcing people to use them, with the goal, of course, of jacking up profits.

At the cornerstone of this campaign has been the definition of normal, as in “normal” health indicators such as, “We’d better check your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.” Along the way, the industry has succeeded in lowering the thresholds at which normal fades out and abnormal takes over. I remember a friend of mine who developed Type II Diabetes from gaining too much weight. He said his doctor told him that the upper limit of “normal” blood sugar levels used to be 140, but now it’s 100. Of course, he was well past both those figures, so it didn’t matter, but now it all starts to fit into a pattern after reading the NYT article by H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., entitled “To Overhaul the System, ‘Health’ Needs Redefinding.”

Here’s a sample:

It [the medical-industrial industry] develops diagnostic technologies able to find smaller and smaller abnormalities. So more and more of us are found to have damaged cartilage in our knees, bulging discs in our backs, and narrowed blood vessels throughout our bodies. And far too many are also found to have “spots” or “shadows” that are seldom significant but are said to be “worrisome.” So more and more of us have knee surgery, back surgery, angioplasty and more diagnostic investigation.

This all works well for the insurance industry too. I remember applying for health insurance a few years ago before my wife’s work-based insurance kicked in. I was declined for diabetes (hyperglycemia) because my blood sugar once tested at 107 (a freak result because I retook the test several times and it’s been down around 70 each time).

So who’s gaming the system? It seems to be a joint effort. Physicians order extra, unneeded tests for “defensive medicine” purposes. The device manufacturers and pharmaceuticals push tests and then drugs on patients who might not even need them. The insurance companies use the test results and the medicines we take to deny us coverage. And for our part, we consumers feel cheated unless our doctors order every test possible when we have the slightest little ailment.

Maybe what we all need is less health care. Now, there’s a novel idea, and of course, that’s exactly what we’re going to get if Obamacare goes through.


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