- By Dr. Hector E. Morales Special to the American-Statesman
I thoroughly agree with the Cal Thomas’ opinion piece on U.S. health care printed in the Aug. 28 edition of the Statesman.
This is a huge multifactorial problem aﬀecting the entire country. There are a few points that should be emphasized on this matter.
The down fall of this country’s health care began in 1973, when the ﬁrst malpractice crisis took place. The insurance companies, without valid reason, increased the malpractice premiums by 1,000 percent. There was no increase in mortality, nor medical complications to justify the dramatic and sudden increase. Consequently, the capricious malpractice lawsuits escalated proportionally. In that same year, the U.S. experienced its ﬁrst fuel crisis, which inexplicably increased the gasoline price almost 400 percent. Our country had more petroleum in reserve than ever before.
Gradually, the doctors began to lose control of the quality and care for their patients. Now, health insurance companies determine patient care. Whenever a doctor prescribes a medication or orders a procedure to improve the patient’s health, the insurance companies must approve it before the patient’s well-being is addressed. Frequently, the delay or denial of treatment negatively affects the outcome. Needless to say, it is frustrating for both the doctor and the patient.
By losing control of medical decisions, the role of the doctor becomes subordinate to that of the insurance industry. This has been a major deterrent for brilliant young people to pursue the medical profession.
The reimbursement to the doctors for their services has decreased more than 40 percent in the last 20 years. Yet, their overhead expenses keep increasing, to the extent that —not infrequently— the physicians, especially those in primary care, must borrow money to keep their offices open. Or, alternatively, they become employees of hospital corporations — a burgeoning corporate world in which the upper echelons frolic in millions of reimbursements and bonuses.
Simply look at the different sectors and performances of the stock market, and one will notice how the medical sector ﬁnancially outperforms technology, ﬁnances, retail and commodities.
These ﬁgures represent the value and proﬁts of pharmaceutical, insurance, medical equipment and any other industry connected to health care that is publicly traded.
We spend twice as much in health care than any other industrial nation in the world — and the medical care is not any better. The money is going into the wrong pockets, and certainly not towards patient care.
Unprecedented numbers of Americans, especially seniors, are ﬁling bankruptcy due to exorbitant medical bills.
We have gone through seven administrations — and the problem has worsened.
Evidently, rich corporations have driving power at the congressional level, while the organized medical communities, such as American Medical Association, continue to lose membership.
The voices of physicians are being silenced.
Morales is a general and vascular surgeon in Austin.