Many Americans are upset (perhaps with good reason) over the astronomical cost of medicines, and health care in general. I recall when I started in medicine in the late 1980’s, a school physical cost $8.00 and an office urinalysis cost $3.00. But that is not really why I am writing this. It is a part of the issue, but it is not the core problem.
I recall also when I trained in medicine, and especially in the small Southern Illinois town where I grew up, the doctors saw everyone. If you were sick, it did not matter if you had insurance, or money, or nothing at all. You got basic medical care. You might wait a few hours in the waiting room, and poor old Dr. Bunnell might get home to his family late… again. But if you were sick, you were seen.
Why does this matter? Is this just an “old white guy” reminiscing about things that really don’t matter? I suppose some might say so, but consider this. There are so many people now who are upset over the cost of health care that we are quite literally at a societal tipping point. We are hearing genuine calls for socialism, and not just in medicine and health care. Many, even among those who are willing to work, do not see an opportunity for advancement or financial security.
It seems there are too many mines in the field of finances, and not enough safe paths to financial success. Some are overextended due to college debt. Some get into a pit they can’t work their way out of just by using a credit card for a few necessities. Some get a college degree, only to find it got them no opportunities in the workforce. Others are working at a near minimum wage job, realizing they can never hope to achieve any of their financial goals, never afford a home, perhaps never even hope to get medical insurance. Something is wrong.
In fact, even as a physician, I would venture to say something is drastically wrong when a person can be bankrupted by a visit to the hospital or emergency room. But who’s fault is it? Let me lay out the blame as succinctly as I can in the medical field alone, because that it the field I most understand.
It could be said that this is myopic. Why focus on medicine? After all CEO’s make tens of millions while screwing employees out of their benefits. Politicians retire with hundreds of millions on a salary of a hundred thousand. Football and basketball players make hundreds of millions playing a kids game! Hollywood pays people hundreds of millions to play a role in a fairy tale or blue screen action film. OK, maybe medicine isn’t the whole problem… But if we can find the solution here, we can show the way everywhere!