The Difference

By Dr. Jim Ferguson
Thanksgiving is late this year, so my thankful thoughts are consequently a bit late in November. I am thankful for many things, certainly more than things I whine about, such as the aches and pains commensurate with traveling around in a body that is getting older. I didn’t say old, just older.

I have been blessed with what I call the three A’s: I am alive, having been granted life by the Creator; aware of the Way, the Truth and the Life; and I remain in awe of the majesty of the universe and its mysteries. Each morning as I awaken and “reboot” my mind, I thank God for another day of life.

Having traversed The Valley of the Shadow of Death, I can comprehend the euthanasia argument, though I have never participated. There is a profound difference along the spectrum of discomfort, pain and agony. If someone were trapped in the realm of agony, I can appreciate their desire to escape.

I have repeated the old saw to patients awakening from surgery, God will take you when he gets you right; and I’m glad he’s sent you back for some remedial work. And this has certainly been the case with me.

The usual Thanksgiving message does not usually include healthcare. However, I am thankful for the excellent care I have received which saved my life, enabling me to continue supporting my family, caring for my patients, writing this column and PTL (praising the Lord)!

For the first six decades of my life I paid sacrificially for healthcare, but rarely used it. Neither did my family. I also paid half the insurance premiums of my employees, and through taxes I paid for the care of countless others. However, in recent years my payments to Medicare and Social Security, which supported others, now support me.

The Democrat “Medicare for All” proposal infuriates me, but so does just about everything the progressive-socialists – who masquerade as Democrats – propose. This latest gimmick is nothing but vote pandering – pandering on steroids. It’s called payola or “walking around money” in Chicago elections. Perhaps the word bribery better describes the Democrat proposal.

I’m not an expert on accounting or economics. These non-science subjects were not part of a science-based, pre-med curriculum. However, in the spirit of a liberal arts education, I took these courses as electives. Fortunately, I was able to take them pass/fail and still be accepted into medical school after “passing” both courses. I do know a bit about medical economics having been a founder of Summit Medical Group as well as serving on its board for six years and as Summit’s president.

A friend recently asked my opinion of an article which appeared in MarketWatch November 9, 2019. I won’t review the entire article, but its two principle points are worthy of consideration. The article’s headline reads, “U.S. health-care costs can be slashed 75% with two fundamental changes – and without Medicare for All.”

When Democrats were not howling at the moon (Trump), we used to hear about problems of rising health-care costs, reducing the cost of prescription drugs and Obama-care revisions. Perhaps one day Democrats will return to legislating, but don’t hold your breath.

In the meantime, consider that America spends a lot of money on health-care and there’s always room for improvement. I’ve asked “experts” why Americans shouldn’t be allowed to spend their money on themselves. These experts look quizzically at me and then spout health-care statistics of Britain, Canada or the EU. Respectfully, America’s diverse population is vastly different than, for example, monochromatic Sweden. Furthermore, approximately 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US-Canadian border – I guess in case they get really sick and need heart surgery at the Cleveland or Mayo clinics. And, observing Brits, it appears they don’t spend much on their teeth.

In the MarketWatch article I learned that Whole Foods, Singapore and Indiana have already applied the two policy changes that the author states would save America $2.4 trillion a year if adopted nationally. The first policy is listing the prices of things like cholesterol blood tests, office visits to the doctor, colonoscopies and appendectomies. Price tags will ensure that everyone (insured & non-insured) pay the same for services and this would promote “competition and efficiency.” As a medical practitioner I know there are hidden costs in all aspects of the current system, much like the hidden costs at the automobile dealership. You at least get to shop and bargain when buying a car.

The second measure is called a “deductible security” and is a bit more complicated. The proposal “pairs an insurance policy that has an annual deductible with a health savings account (HSA) that the policy’s sponsor funds each year with an amount equal to the annual deductible. The policy’s sponsor can either be a private employer like Whole Foods or a government entity like the state of Indiana.” The incentive is that unused money in the HSA belongs to the individual so people are prudent in spending. An example is seeing the doctor tomorrow rather than going to the ER tonight. The Medicare for All proposal offers no incentives for savings because people have no skin in the game.

There is more in the referenced article, but focusing on the two principle points seems rational. Whole Foods has been using this model since 2002 and Indiana since 2007. Pelosi and Schiff should renounce their insane anti Trump policy and begin working for We The People again rather than pursuing personal power and prestige.

One of my medical students recently called me for advice in setting up a medical practice. I explained that I did traditional medicine for more than four decades, but left the system in 2014. Much has changed since then. In fact, the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said change is inevitable. Our adaption to change is what’s important. When my on-call partners left and Summit began making business decisions I felt were wrong and as Obama pushed his disastrous health-care system, I left.

The poet Robert Frost said it best:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

It did so for me.

 

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