Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Cure Alzheimer's

American innovation is the key to progress, or so we're always told by those running for political office.

But how do we pilot that innovation into where it belongs? Currently, the innovation is not being used wisely when it comes to gerontological care (medicine for old people) because Big Pharma has all the incentive to treat, and no incentive to cure. Hence, we live in a world where an old man can take a regular pill to give him an erection, use a regular treatment to give him his hair back, use a regular topical cream to raise his testosterone levels... Or an old woman can deal with her osteoporosis by regularly taking the drug that Sally Field promotes. Regular treatment, regular treatment, and more regular treatment. In other words, they can have their health, IF they buy their product, and use it day after day after day... for the rest of their lives.  Just keep paying us, and we'll treat you.

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This creates a direct financial disincentive to cure diseases like Alzheimer's. Or arthritis, or osteoporosis, or any other number of long-term maladies. Why? Because the goal is to keep the patient coming back, of course. If the patient is cured, that means a one-time sale where the customer leaves and doesn't return. Can't have that, can we? It's a sales technique perfected by auto repair shops, plumbers, credit card companies and crack-cocaine dealers: Hook 'em in, then bleed 'em dry.

Insurance companies know this, of course. Their goal is to make sure premiums paid in do not exceed outlays paid out. (That is how they make all their money, you know.) And so will try not to get hooked in to permanent care. They would love to find cures and avoid big, long-term payments as a result. But even if those cures would save them tons of money, they can't afford to pay for the R&D. That's expensive. They have no guarantee that they will ever find a cure anytime soon to help their bottom line, and their margin of error for turning a profit is very small. And even if they did have a guarantee, their discovery would benefit their competitors as well as themselves, meaning that others would reap the benefits of their labor. Hence, no insurance company ever bothers with funding efforts at finding the cure.  Let the research departments of Universities handle that. Oh, but the research departments of Universities are having their funding slashed.

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Now, let's turn the situation around. Let's say that instead of Big Insurance and Big Pharma running the show, the Government ran health care. I know, I know, the government screws stuff up, true dat. But not as much as the two aforementioned morons. Here's how the money flows when the government is in charge:

The healthcare costs are expensive, they only keep going up. How can the government save costs? (Sooner or later, they do worry about that.) By finding cures. They have to! Only curing the patient permanently will save the government any costs. It's cure-or-die when the government runs the healthcare system. But to do that, they have to commit to the R&D and hang on to it like a pit-bull on a postman's leg!

Would it work? Well, watch Europe. Their financial system is in crisis with their government-paid healthcare systems, and they are forced to cut costs. Just watch. You'll see lots of big breakthroughs coming through from there. Because the citizens of Europe will never let go of their healthcare system (they think we're crazy for trusting the insurance companies, and they're not wrong), thus forcing Europe to cure or die. I predict that many or most cures for long-term diseases will very soon come from the E.U., particularly from France and England. Even Canada.

You know, the ones with that supposedly crappy system.

Without a doubt, the insurance companies in this country will glom on to those cures and save their money without having committed any resources to finding those cures, and this will convince some that our insurance company program still works, but we'll all suffer in the meantime, digging through mountains of needless paperwork, getting screwed by corporate execs who don't have a medical degree, and dying far too young as a result.

What got my hackles up over this? Well, I'm still trying to find any way to find long-term care for my mother's Alzheimer's, and here's what I found: her lovely insurance coverage, paid for supposedly by the over-bloated Milwaukee County, is outsourced to United Healthcare - an insurance giant. And what do they say about paying for her care? Well, basically that, after a lifetime of service to Milwaukee, she's screwed. Nursing home care is NOT covered. Only in-home care is covered. When I started making plans for arranging in-home care, I found, buried in the fine-print, that only 40 doctor-ordered visits per year are covered, and a "visit" constitutes four hours in a given day.

In other words, Big Insurance has told my mother, "You're screwed!"



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