Healthcare in the Teens: Will it go round in circles?

This decade is still too new to have earned a snappy nickname, following the Nasty Nineties, and the Awful Aughts, so let’s fix that oversight, right here, right now.

We are living in the Era of Circulus in Probando — or, put slightly less elegantly, the Golden Age of Circular Reasoning. So, call this decade what it is: the Twisted Teens.

Our current epoch appears to be defined by the discovery of at least one newly coined polysyllogistic fallacy each day. In case you’re not sure what we mean by “polysyllogistic fallacy,” and it’s not a phrase we throw around the cafeteria every afternoon, let us illustrate with an example:

  1. Prescription drugs normally prolong and improve human health.
  2. Death is an inevitable component of the human condition.
  3. Therefore, we conclude that prescription drugs don’t work, so we don’t need to put any new drugs on our formulary.

One more example may be useful.

  1. “Rugged individualism” and “American exceptionalism” are popular terms in the American lexicon.
  2. Every developed country, excluding the United States, offers a form of health coverage to its residents.
  3. Therefore, it is clear that Americans don’t want healthcare, and the Democrats in Congress must be punished for attempting to provide it.

Pursuant to this model of cognition-in-circles, it is not unexpected that the past 48 hours have brought the following fresh revelations of 360-degree thinking.

  • The shortage of physicians available to treat Canadians for diabetes and heart disease has improved somewhat, which means that spending on physician services has increased, so the provinces are going to have to pay doctors less, according to a new analysis. This may lead doctors to seek other sources of revenue, such as consulting to the pharma industry.
  • Payments made to doctors by seven U.S.-based pharma companies — Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson and Cephalon — began being catalogued on a website (http://projects.propublica.org/docdollars). This information confused many patients, particularly the specific details concerning medicine’s Big Earners: 384 physicians who each pocketed more than $100,000 from Big Pharma last year. It has been argued that these revelations may discourage some patients from visiting their doctors. The Chicago Tribune offered this advice to patients who may be troubled by the reports: “Try not to adopt a confrontational posture that might put your doctor on the defensive. Ask open-ended questions such as, ‘Can you tell me more about your relationship with Company X?'”
  • The public, newly incensed over what it may perceive as under-the-table exchanges between healthcare companies and their doctors, took note that the U.S. government wants to encourage employees of commercial enterprises to report to regulators any form of wrongdoing in their organizations. This word came as a worker named Cheryl Eckard was awarded the record amount of US$96 million for ratting out her bosses at GlaxoSmithKline over bad manufacturing practices at a Puerto Rican drug plant.
  • Healthcare spending in Canada will hit nearly $192 billion this year, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. That works out to $5,600 for each resident, or $430.76 each week of the year, for you and your spouse and two kiddies. At this rate, you’ll soon need to rat out your employer, just to make ends meet. Copeman Health Care, a private clinic operating in Calgary and Vancouver that charges patients an access fee of $3,900, came under media scrutiny, while the federal health minister ordered an investigation of Sentinelle Health Group, an Ottawa organization suspected of billing for services that would normally be covered by the public system. Both clinics are suspected of possibly contravening the Canada Health Act. Meanwhile, Alberta unveiled its long-anticipated revisions to the provincial Health Act, which, critics charged, failed to offer any specific details concerning deployment of clinical resources, or solutions for wait-times — but, instead, reiterated some innocuous principles, including “putting patients first.”

But, look, you don’t need to master the principles of politics, or health policy, or geometry, to determine that in any circular construct, the separation between first and last is imperceptible. What goes around, comes around, and our study of patterns strongly suggests that healthcare is spinning in circles that are as perfectly spherical as the Brazilian McDonald’s manager’s waistline.

Getting down to it, who makes a better symbol for this decade of the Twisted Teens? Cheryl Eckard, who blew the whistle on her employer, is consequently called a hero, and who pocketed $92 million for her effort? Or the unenviable lardtub under the Golden Arches, who quietly and literally sucked it all up — and to show for his perseverance, now possesses a characteristically distended gut, a theoretically shrunken brain, and sweaty palms gripping a court-awarded settlement so tiny that, in Canada, it couldn’t cover his family’s health costs for a full year? (Not to mention, the price of an entire new wardrobe of George Richards suits.)

There’s a word for an age that accepts those values as reasonable.  Twisted, man.

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