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A Big Idea For President Obama

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

President Obama has been disingenuous during his entire time in office.  He has publicly asked for ideas on Repairing The Healthcare System before and after he took office. I will repeat the advice that he has ignored in the next few blog post.  

He has been influenced by the ideas of Tom Daschle and Don Berwick to the exclusions of ideas that might actually be effective. Both men are convinced that the healthcare system would be repaired if there were a complete government take over.

President Obama has been extremely cunning in working his way toward a complete government takeover of medicine. Some of Mr. Daschle and Dr. Berwick’s ideas are good. Most of their ideas will not fix the defects in the healthcare system. There is a total disregard of citizens in their program.  

President Obama is expanding the bureaucracy and creating a wasteful morass of new agencies. Those agencies are generating incomprehensible and non-enforceable regulations. The regulations are trying to commoditize medical care  in America. 

Our healthcare system is a mess. Medicare and social security in its present form will result in a 100 trillion dollar a year deficit in 75 years. The solution to Repairing the Healthcare System is relatively simple. The key to the solution is social responsibility by all stakeholders involved in the healthcare system and individual responsibility by the consumers and potential consumers of healthcare.

Neither political party is getting behind a big idea that’s bold enough to actually solve major problems.  

Unfortunately, secondary stakeholders (the healthcare insurance industry, hospital systems and government) have not become socially responsible toward the best interests of consumers. Consumers will assume responsibility with significant incentives and appropriate education.

 One big idea is to reform the food industry. The food industry’s products and advertising undermine Americans eating healthy. The food industry’s advertising has to be redirected to consumer education and not consumer self-destruction.  President Obama’s approach to healthy eating has been tokenism.

He has ignored appropriate input on how to fix the food industry in an effort to decrease obesity in America.

  No one has asked for the opinion of practicing physicians. The focus of all healthcare policy “experts” is economics.

Here is a big idea.

Obesity leads to chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Walk into any Coronary Care Unit in the nation and 80% of the patients with myocardial infarctions are obese and have Diabetes Mellitus. The complications of Diabetes Mellitus cost the healthcare system $160 billion dollars a year. Eliminating obesity will reduce the incidence of Diabetes Mellitus by at least 50%.

Cheap manufactured food subsided by the government results in 19% of America’s fossil fuel use. It also results in more than 75% of the obesity in this country.

Eighty per cent of the healthcare dollars are spent on the complications of chronic diseases. The eighty percent cost to the healthcare system is one trillion six hundred million dollars a year.

The obesity epidemic is interconnected with our energy policy and energy subsidies, farm policies and subsidies, environmental policy and conditioned attitudes toward fast food.

 Michael Pollan points out the problem with our entire food supply system and the impact it has on healthcare, the environment and energy.

“Which brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change

The three problems are tightly connected. The repair of each problem has to must be done in a creative way that aligns all the stakeholders’ incentives with consumers’ health and wellness.

Michael Pollen goes on to tell President Obama “Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on — but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them.

Mr. Pollan’s point is the way we grow food and manufacture food stuff is a major reason for obesity and pollution leading to the complications of chronic diseases (Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and chronic lung disease). This results in a 1.6 trillion dollar cost to the healthcare system. All American’s needs is the will to change.  

It is going to require a lot of public and congressional education. It will be harder to educate congress than the public. Vested interest lobbying drives Congress.  President Obama must help the public create a greater voice than the special interests. The public will then lobby the congress.

Michael Pollan says “the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases.  

The reformatting of the payment system for physicians with the theoretical effectiveness of Accountable Care Organizations (ACO’s) will not work. It will only waste money. It will only dispirit the medical profession and diminish the effectiveness of a necessary workforce. Physicians are not the villains.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.



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