Health Solutions Strategies
Problems in the health care industry are deep and widespread. Pharmaceuticals are pushing more and more drugs and making more and more money; insurance companies are turning down people most in need of health care; per-capita spending is higher in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world; health care costs are rising about 6% every year; and Americans are not getting any healthier.
One thing is clear: our current system, which is working so poorly, needs a thorough transformation. This is not an easy task and many people have devoted their whole lives to creating a better health care system. This section highlights various compelling models and ideas, many of which have been adopted in other countries or are promoted by experts in the field.
Our goal is to move toward a culture where health care:
- is accessible to everyone
- encourages preventive, natural, pro-active treatment
- operates without financial conflict of interest between researchers and providers
Our basic strategy for achieving this is outlined in three overlapping stages. Stage 1 involves reforming existing systems to get health care operating with integrity. Stage 2 involves decreasing taxes and using funds freed up from Stage 1 to help fund a transition away from government control of healthcare. Stage 3 is based on voluntary cooperation, without any coercive government systems, where healthcare is diverse, private, and operating with transparency and choice.
STAGE 1- Reform
Provide Temporary Government Assistance for Those Most in Need
During Stage 1 we would redirect funds from inefficient government services as well as corporate subsidies, the military and the Federal Reserve, into effective programs that need funding, at no extra expense to taxpayers. This would help finance health care for those who can’t afford it.
Reform Government Agencies
The biggest government agencies associated with health include the FDA, the USDA, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in charge of “protecting and promoting our health” by regulating the safety of foods, drugs, cosmetics, radiation technologies and more. Unfortunately it frequently fails to protect consumers. Even those within the agency question the FDA’s safety procedures.
One effective reform of the FDA would be to stop funding it with drug industry money.
A good portion of FDA funding comes from user fees on drugs. This is a clear conflict of interest. The FDA is in charge of approving or denying prescription drug applications. More approvals give them more money. Research shows that since the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) has been in effect, more dangerous drugs have been approved. We can expose the conflict of interest and stop the FDA from receiving pharmaceutical funding since that’s the very industry it’s supposed to regulate.
Some possibilities include:
- Create new transparency laws or regulations. Lobby for your medical provider to provide information on any funding and support they receive from drug companies. Private companies could take on the management of transparency programs to help us rate doctors, similar to Yelp. Doctors would have to display who funds them in their offices, professors would have to list ties to the pharmaceutical industry on their class syllabus, etc.
- Demand transparency of funding. After discovering that many professors had multiple ties to the drug industry, medical students at Harvard were able to get their teachers to reveal industry ties at the beginning of each course. They did it by putting pressure on their administration and spreading the news to the media. This is an effective approach to increase transparency and avoid more government intervention. To read more about the Harvard success story, click here.
Encourage More Whole-Systems Education in Medical Schools
The majority of medical practitioners in the U.S. are trained in allopathy, which emphasizes the use of drugs to treat symptoms of illness. Most medical students don’t take nutrition courses or learn about preventive measures to avoid illness. Here are some ideas to achieve the care and treatment necessary for a truly healthy populace.
- Make Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) part of mainstream curriculum. This has already been done in Cuba with great success. In 2005, faculty members from several U.S. medical schools traveled to Cuba to study the national public health system and found that part of its success is due to the medical education. They observed that Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is “not seen as something to be learned in addition to medical training, but rather as a valid body of knowledge to be integrated at all levels.” The authors of the study suggested making “evidence-based aspects of integrative medicine” a mandatory part of curriculum in U.S. medical schools through the American Commission for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the Liaison Committee for Medical Education (LCME).
- Support naturopathic medical colleges in the U.S. with enrollment and funding – We need more naturopathic medical colleges in the U.S. that offer rigorous training in traditional MD classes as well as clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, oriental medicine, lifestyle counseling, massage, physical medicine, and hydrotherapy.
Learn About Other Working Healthcare Systems
In 2008, the World Health Organization ranked the U.S. #37 in healthcare. By surveying existing systems we can learn best practices and innovate what has not yet been developed. Cuba and England offer some compelling ideas to inform a temporary Stage 1 transition:
Cuba spends around $251 per person on health care annually, whereas the U.S. spends more than $7,000 per person. In Cuba, everyone has access to quality healthcare and as of 2002, 86% of Cuban physicians practiced some form of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Some interesting possibilities for the U.S. based on Cuba’s healthcare system include the following.
- Create small community-based health clinics, including home visits for individual patients as well as health education and promotion for whole families.
- Make CAM part of mainstream medical curriculum.
- Make alternative therapies accessible to everyone. Currently most alternative therapies in the U.S. are not covered by health insurance. In 1998 out-of-pocket expenses totaled $27 billion. Alternative treatments are rarely accessed by low-income individuals.
- Adopt the best of all medical practices.
In the U.S., physicians make more money when they see more patients, regardless of whether the patients improve as a result of the care. Other places, such as the U.K., however, have come up with a way to change this dynamic. As one doctor explains in Michael Moore’s film “Sicko”, the more patients he gets to lower their blood pressure, lower their cholesterol, or quit smoking, the more he gets paid. This shifts the focus from quantity of care to quality of care.
STAGE 2 – Limit Government Control of Healthcare
Stage 2 would involve shutting down major government health agencies such as the FDA, Codex Alimentarius, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It would also involve eliminating subsidies to the AMA, pharmaceuticals, and the American Cancer Society. This would save taxpayer money and people would be able to fund health programs and private health agencies that they truly support.
It is important to acknowledge that there is a key role to be played in regulating the food, health and drug industries to meet safety standards. These functions would not simply go away in Stage 2. Instead they would be replaced by competitive private organizations accountable to the private, unsubsidized companies that insure them. Consumers would demand to know the quality of goods, and private regulatory agencies would be much better at ranking and evaluating products than existing governing bodies. Imagine competing organic labels, GMO and non-GMO labels, extensive nutrition facts, etc. There would be diverse models, driven by consumer demand and the need for companies to establish and maintain track records of reliability, rather than corrupt centralized government authorities making all the rules.
STAGE 3 – Set Up Systems for Voluntary Cooperation
In Stage 3, the money that is freed from having eliminated the corrupt economic system of the Federal Reserve and the over-subsidizing of the military industrial complex would be in people’s hands to support themselves and each other with effective and integrated medical services.
In Stage 3 there would be genuine, unsubsidized competition which results in more diverse health care options and better quality services. For example, the insurance industry could grow to encompass varying models. Health insurers could take on a more pro-active role in preventive medicine. Why would they do this? Because it costs less if their clients stay healthy. For example, if a doctor shows that a patient has prevented diseases naturally – such as diabetes by losing weight, lung cancer by quitting smoking, or cervical cancer by getting yearly pap smears – then patients monthly rates could go down. Other insurance companies could require regular health check-ups, similar to dental insurance that requires bi-annual cleanings. This would help shift the focus away from medicating symptoms of illness, to actually preventing illness. It’s also cheaper and incentivizes better choices.
Stage 3 is wide open for innovation in the health sector.
 Scientists within the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health sent a letter to Obama complaining of corruption in January of 2009. They stated, “The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the scientific review process for medical devices at the FDA has been corrupted and distorted by current FDA managers, thereby placing the American people at risk.” See: FDA Scientists Complain to Obama of “Corruption”: January 8, 2009. Original article by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar at the Associated Press.
 “Eliminate FDA’s Dependency on Drug Industry Money,” Public Citizen Tells Congress, May 4, 2007: http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/release.cfm?ID=2428
 The 2006 United Nations Human Development Report said Cuba’s spending per capita was $251: http://hdr.undp.org/hdr2006/statistics/indicators/52.html
 In 2007 according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, per capita spending in the U.S. was $7498: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/NationalHealthExpendData/25_NHE_Fact_Sheet.asp.
 Note: These are based on suggestions published by faculty members from several U.S. medical schools who traveled to Cuba to study the national public health system. See: Applebaum, Diane, RN et al. Natural and Traditional Medicine in Cuba: Lessons for U.S. Medical Education. Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. December 2006. Volume 81. Issue 12. pp 1098-1103.