American Health Care and the Profit Motive; Part 2


“The World Health Organization has admitted that ‘Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide’. For nearly 40 years, the United States has spent over $200 billion ‘trying’ to find a cure – with no success. But, most doctors can’t even tell you why (cancer) medicine is such a failure.” (Natural News, April 16, 2012; accessed November 29, 2015). As a story in the New York Times, April 24, 2009 reported, “As Other Death Rates Fall, Cancer’s Scarcely Moves.” “The cancer death rate, now about 200 deaths a year per 100,000 people of all ages and 1,000 deaths per 100,000 people over age 65 — is nearly the same now as it was in 1950, dropping only 5 percent.” This after the “War on Cancer” was declared by President Nixon in 1970 and enshrined in the National Cancer Act of 1971!

Part 1 of this series (American Health Care and the Profit Motive, July 12, 2015,) reviewed the progression from the caring family doctor of the 1800s and first part of the 20th Century to the increasing importance of a profit mentality in the provision of medical care in the United States. When most doctors now consider between 13 and 16 minutes’ time spent with a patient as meaningful, it is difficult not to see an interest in packing in as many patients as possible into a working day. Is this for the benefit of the patient or the physician? Ask just about any patient who realizes his/her doctor has eyes more on the clock (or laptop with a timer running!) than the patient and the answer seems obvious.
Moving beyond money as the root of the American Medical System, it seems there is a more insidious and evil factor at work—also intimately tied into profit but actually dangerous to patient’s health. 
Long before there was the American Medical Association, licensing boards for physicians and the major pharmaceutical industry with its control over drug testing, manufacturing and the Food and Drug Administration, there was a type of medicine known by many names. In earlier days, it was called folk medicine. Later, names such as natural medicine, alternative medicine and holistic medicine came into vogue. Generally, now these are subsumed under the term complementary medicine. Allied against these forms of medicine with the powerful allies of the mainstream media and governmental control are two other types of medicine aiming to treat the human body. 
One is called allopathicmedicine; the other is osteopathic medicine. The number of practitioners of the former (M.D.s) far outnumber the latter (D. O’s). Allopaths, in a good description from Wikipedia.com, “use pharmacologically active agents or physical interventions to treat or suppress symptoms or pathophysiologic processes of diseases or conditions.”  Osteopaths treat the “whole patient” (mind-body-spirit). They give primacy to the importance of the musculoskeletal system in health. The termallopathic was coined in the 19th century by Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy to refer to mainstream medicine—the prefix allo is simply from the Greek meaning “different.”
Note the important focus of allopathic physicians above—use pharmacological agents or physical interventions (surgery for example) to treat or suppress symptoms or disease processes. Is there an inherent implication in this approach? Is the focus of allopathic medicine attacking specific symptoms or processes while ignoring the root cause? If so, it would provide more evidence for the profit motive in medical care. That is, the basic problem is never completely fixed; it provides a recurrent source of income. Evidence for this possibility is found in the Cancer Industry.
According to the government Web site www.cancer.govquoting a National Institutes of Health analysis, “medical expenditures for cancer in the year 2020 are projected to reach at least $158 billion (in 2010 dollars)—an increase of 27 percent over 2010.” This assumes that new tools for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up remain at 2010 costs, a highly unlikely event. Instead, assuming a growth in the expensiveness of these tools, expenditures for cancer treatment could be as high as $207 billion, says the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institute of Health. What a fertile field of opportunity for profit-making. 
Currently www.cancer.govis projecting mean initial net costsof treating various cancers between 2010 and 2010, assuming a zero percent increase in medical costs (a ridiculous assumption but necessary as a starting point) to range from $5,047 to $5,437 for melanoma to between $108,168 and $115,250 for brain cancer. Since every cancer is not necessarily cured completely, projections include continuing care through the last year of life. All told, the costs become astronomical and explain the multi-billion dollar projections. What an opportunity for corporate greed on the part of both the medical establishment, the pharmaceutical companies and the charitable agencies like the American Cancer Society. The latter took $368,662,255 in charitable contributions in FY 2013, spent only 60.6% on program expenditures, and rewarded its senior executives with salaries like these: 
John Seffrin, CEO
$845, 787
Donald Gudaitis, Exec. VP New England
$1,686,164
Jarilyn J. Allen, Exec VP Midwest
$1,243,668
Donald Distasio, Exec VP Eastern
$1,152,329
Without in any way impugning the motives or suggesting anything negative about these officers, is it at least reasonable to look at human behavior and wonder how eager they are to put themselves out of business?  Or, is this just a tiny example of the real direction of the “War on Cancer?”
A report from the Congressional Research Service, a department of the Library of Congress, prepared for members and committees of Congress and obtained through WikiLeaks, gave the following data on estimated cancer cases in 2008 from all cancer sites: 1,427,180. Based on the 2008 population, this equates to a rate of 4,727 cases per 100,000.
The Cancer Prevention Coalition(CPC) reports statistics that refute the claims of the National Cancer Institute that the war on cancer is being won.  “Reversal in overall mortality rates has been minimal and due largely to a reduction in lung cancer deaths from reduced smoking in men rather than to advances in treatment. Overall five-year survival rates for all cancers have remained virtually static since 1970, from 49 to 54 percent for all races.” CPC claims cancer incidence has escalated over recent decades to the point that one in two men and one in three women will contract cancer in their lifetimes. Other sources confirm this trend. In 1950, the death rate for malignant neoplasms (cancer) was 139.8 per 100,000 population. In 2011, the death rate for cancer was 184.6. In contrast between 1950 and 2011 the death rate for cardiovascular diseases dropped from 510.8 to 249.8 per 100,000. [Source: U.S. Public Health Service, Vital Statistics of the United States.] Unlike the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association spends 78.1% of its expenses on programs and services. Perhaps we have the wrong charitable organization fighting cancer for us?
Government and related charitable agencies that recently tout a winning strategy in the war on cancer use things such as a telling decrease in lung cancer cases since a peak in the 1990s to manipulate the data. In fact, lung cancer has decreased primarily due to changes in smoking habits and early detection methods rather than any improvement in treatment. Rather than winning this “war” when taking into account all cancers, the rates have significantly increased, probably due in part to increasing environmental problems. Most importantly, overall five-year survival rates for all cancers have remained virtually static since 1970, which does not suggest a winning strategy in this war.
The next post in this series will go into how the Cancer Industry, which includes the medical establishment, pharmaceutical companies and some charitable agencies maintain their profitable income through data manipulation, governmental control over “approved” treatments, bullying by arrogant and profit-seeking doctors, and in some cases outright deception on the part of pharmaceutical companies.