Health Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Health Media Articles in Major Media
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A freelance cameraman's appendix ruptured and by the time he was admitted to surgery, it was too late. A self-employed mother of two is found dead in bed from undiagnosed heart disease. A 26-year-old aspiring fashion designer collapsed in her bathroom after feeling unusually fatigued for days. What all three of these people have in common is that they experienced symptoms, but didn't seek care because they were uninsured and they worried about the hospital expense, according to their families. All three died. Research released ... in the American Journal of Public Health estimates that 45,000 deaths per year in the United States are associated with the lack of health insurance. If a person is uninsured, "it means you're at mortal risk," said one of the authors, Dr. David Himmelstein, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. The researchers examined government health surveys from more than 9,000 people aged 17 to 64, taken from 1986-1994, and then followed up through 2000. They determined that the uninsured have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those with private health insurance as a result of being unable to obtain necessary medical care. The researchers then extrapolated the results to census data from 2005 and calculated there were 44,789 deaths associated with lack of health insurance.
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A shipwreck apparently containing toxic waste is being investigated by authorities in Italy amid claims that it was deliberately sunk by the mafia. An informant from the Calabrian mafia said the ship was one of a number he blew up as part of an illegal operation to bypass laws on toxic waste disposal. The sunken vessel has been found 30km (18 miles) off the south-west of Italy. The informant said it contained "nuclear" material. Officials said it would be tested for radioactivity. Murky pictures taken by a robot camera show the vessel intact and alongside it are a number of yellow barrels. Labels on them say the contents are toxic. The informant said the mafia had muscled in on the lucrative business of radioactive waste disposal. But he said that instead of getting rid of the material safely, he blew up the vessel out at sea, off the Calabrian coast. He also says he was responsible for sinking two other ships containing toxic waste. For years there have been rumours that the mafia was sinking ships with nuclear and other waste on board, as part of a money-making racket. The environmental campaign group Greenpeace and others have compiled lists over the past few decades of ships that have disappeared off the coast of Italy and Greece. Processing waste is highly specialised and is supposed to be an industry where security is the top priority. If tests show that there is nuclear material on the seabed it will prove that the mafia has moved into its dirtiest business yet.
The nation's political crosscurrents appear to have created vaccine skeptics of many stripes. Many citizens are less inclined than ever to accept the warnings of the Department of Health and Human Services or the recommendations of its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says Sandra Quinn, a University of Pittsburgh public health professor who has just completed a national survey of attitudes about the flu vaccine. Vaccine refusers have long decried vaccine mandates and campaigns as an unwarranted intrusion of parents' and local school boards' rights. For a new generation of vaccine skeptics, there are new objects of distrust. For some, it flows from a suspicion of the multinational corporations that develop and manufacture vaccines. For others, it comes from a belief that media outlets have hyped the pandemic flu story to secure the attention of readers and the revenue of advertisers. And many simply doubt the competency and independence of government agencies, which they believe are too inept, overwhelmed or co-opted by corporate interests to secure the safety of the nation's drugs and food supply. Adding to the wariness toward the forthcoming H1N1 vaccine is the fact that the formulations used on patients in the United States might require the use of adjuvants -- special agents added to a vaccine mix that rev up the immune system and foster a stronger immune response. While adjuvants have been used in vaccines in Europe for many years, the FDA has never approved them for widespread use in the United States. Some vaccine critics in Great Britain have charged that one adjuvant used in European formulations -- squalene -- is associated with a wide range of vague but persistent symptoms.
Note: Adjuvants are being added to vaccines, yet the resulting combined formula is not being tested for safety; the individual components are tested separately. The process for the testing of vaccines is endangering our health. For lots more on the dangers of vaccines and squalene in particular, read respected Dr. Joseph Mercola's incisive article available here.
To listen to President Obama, or to just about anyone else in the health care debate, you would think that the biggest problem with health care in America is the system itself — perverse incentives, inefficiencies, unnecessary tests and procedures, lack of competition, and greed. No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet. That’s why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases.” Not all of these diseases are linked to diet — there’s smoking, for instance — but many, if not most, of them are. We’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care. The American way of eating has become the elephant in the room in the debate over health care.
Note: For a detailed overview of some of the critical risks of the industrially-engineered modern American diet, click here.
A new food-labeling campaign called Smart Choices, backed by most of the nation’s largest food manufacturers, is “designed to help shoppers easily identify smarter food and beverage choices.” The green checkmark label that is starting to show up on store shelves will appear on hundreds of packages, including — to the surprise of many nutritionists — sugar-laden cereals like Cocoa Krispies and Froot Loops. “These are horrible choices,” said Walter C. Willett, chairman of the nutrition department of the Harvard School of Public Health. He said the criteria used by the Smart Choices Program were seriously flawed, allowing less healthy products, like sweet cereals and heavily salted packaged meals, to win its seal of approval. “It’s a blatant failure of this system and it makes it, I’m afraid, not credible,” Mr. Willett said. Froot Loops qualifies for the label because it meets standards set by the Smart Choices Program for fiber and Vitamins A and C, and because it does not exceed limits on fat, sodium and sugar. It contains the maximum amount of sugar allowed under the program for cereals, 12 grams per serving, which in the case of Froot Loops is 41 percent of the product. That is more sugar than in many popular brands of cookies. “Froot Loops is an excellent source of many essential vitamins and minerals and it is also a good source of fiber with only 12 grams of sugar,” said Celeste A. Clark, senior vice president of global nutrition for Kellogg’s, which makes Froot Loops. Dr. Clark, who is a member of the Smart Choices board, said that the program’s standard for sugar in cereals was consistent with federal dietary guidelines.
Note: For many revealing reports on health issues, click here.
The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer agreed to pay $2.3 billion to settle civil and criminal allegations that it had illegally marketed its painkiller Bextra, which has been withdrawn. It was the largest health care fraud settlement and the largest criminal fine of any kind ever. The settlement had been expected. Pfizer, which is acquiring a rival, Wyeth, reported in January that it had taken a $2.3 billion charge to resolve claims involving Bextra and other drugs. It was Pfizer’s fourth settlement over illegal marketing activities since 2002. The government charged that executives and sales representatives throughout Pfizer’s ranks planned and executed schemes to illegally market not only Bextra but also Geodon, an antipsychotic; Zyvox, an antibiotic; and Lyrica, which treats nerve pain. While the government said the fine was a record sum, the $2.3 billion fine amounts to less than three weeks of Pfizer’s sales. Much of the activities cited Wednesday occurred while Pfizer was in the midst of resolving allegations that it illegally marketed Neurontin, an epilepsy drug for which the company in 2004 paid a $430 million fine and signed a corporate integrity agreement — a companywide promise to behave. John Kopchinski, a former Pfizer sales representative whose complaint helped prompt the government’s Bextra case, said that company managers told him and others to dismiss concerns about the Neurontin case while pushing them to undertake similar illegal efforts on behalf of Bextra. “The whole culture of Pfizer is driven by sales, and if you didn’t sell drugs illegally, you were not seen as a team player,” said Mr. Kopchinski.
The electromagnetic waves emitted by mobile phone towers and cellphones can pose a threat to honey bees, a study published in India has concluded. An experiment conducted in the southern state of Kerala found that a sudden fall in the bee population was caused by towers installed across the state by cellphone companies to increase their network. The electromagnetic waves emitted by the towers crippled the "navigational skills" of the worker bees that go out to collect nectar from flowers to sustain bee colonies, said Dr. Sainuddin Pattazhy, who conducted the study. He found that when a cell phone was kept near a beehive, the worker bees were unable to return, leaving the hives with only the queens and eggs and resulting in the collapse of the colony within ten days. Over 100,000 people in Kerala are engaged in apiculture and the dwindling worker bee population poses a threat to their livelihood. The bees also play a vital role in pollinating flowers to sustain vegetation. If towers and mobile phones further increase, honey bees might be wiped out in 10 years, Pattazhy said.
Amid questions about the safety of the HPV vaccine Gardasil, one of the lead researchers for the Merck drug is speaking out about its risks, benefits and aggressive marketing. Dr. Diane Harper says young girls and their parents should receive more complete warnings before receiving the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. Dr. Harper helped design and carry out the Phase II and Phase III safety and effectiveness studies to get Gardasil approved, and authored many of the published, scholarly papers about it. She has been a paid speaker and consultant to Merck. It's highly unusual for a researcher to publicly criticize a medicine or vaccine she helped get approved. Dr. Harper joins a number of consumer watchdogs, vaccine safety advocates, and parents who question the vaccine's risk-versus-benefit profile. She says data available for Gardasil shows that ... there is no data showing that it remains effective beyond five years. This raises questions about the CDC's recommendation that the series of shots be given to girls as young as 11-years old. "If we vaccinate 11 year olds and the protection doesn't last... we've put them at harm from side effects, small but real, for no benefit," says Dr. Harper. "The benefit to public health is nothing, there is no reduction in cervical cancers, they are just postponed, unless the protection lasts for at least 15 years, and over 70% of all sexually active females of all ages are vaccinated." She also says that enough serious side effects have been reported after Gardasil use that the vaccine could prove riskier than the cervical cancer it purports to prevent. Cervical cancer is usually entirely curable when detected early through normal Pap screenings.
Note: For more on the dangers of vaccines, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
To the credit of opponents of health-care reform, the lies and exaggerations they're spreading are not made up out of whole cloth—which makes the misinformation that much more credible. Instead, because opponents demand that everyone within earshot (or e-mail range) look, say, "at page 425 of the House bill!," the lies take on a patina of credibility. Take the claim in one chain e-mail that the government will have electronic access to everyone's bank account, implying that the Feds will rob you blind. The 1,017-page bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee does call for electronic fund transfers—but from insurers to doctors and other providers. There is zero provision to include patients in any such system. Five other myths that won't die:  You'll have no choice in what health benefits you receive.  No chemo for older Medicare patients. A related myth is that health-care reform will be financed through $500 billion in Medicare cuts. This refers to proposed decreases in Medicare increases.  Illegal immigrants will get free health insurance.  Death panels will decide who lives.  The government will set doctors' wages. To be sure, there are also honest and principled objections to health-care reform. Some oppose a requirement that everyone have health insurance as an erosion of individual liberty. And many are simply scared out of their wits about what health-care reform will mean for them. But when fear and loathing hijack the brain, anything becomes believable.
Note: For lots more on health issues from major media sources, click here.
Chevron Corp., California's largest company and one of the world's largest oil producers, will soon face a day of reckoning. After 16 years of litigation, a case the company inherited in a merger, Aguinda vs. Texaco Inc., is nearing an end. The legal battle that began in the United States in 1993 and resumed in Ecuador in 2003 has pitted the multinational against an unlikely adversary, a coalition of indigenous tribes and communities. A verdict is expected early next year. The plaintiffs are poised to prevail, and Chevron acknowledges that it is likely to lose. The case is historic by several measures. Never before have indigenous peoples brought a multinational oil corporation to trial in their own country. Moreover, a victory would mark a turning point in the relations between native populations around the world and the foreign corporations that do business in their homelands. And the potential damages are staggering: A court-appointed expert has determined that they could run to $27 billion, almost 10 times that initially awarded to plaintiffs after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Today, a swath of the Ecuadorean Amazon the size of Rhode Island remains contaminated beyond imagining. At one site after another, oil hangs in the air, slides on the water's surface and saturates the land. Pipelines and waste pits left behind years ago still drip and ooze. Advocates for the plaintiffs have called the former Texaco concession area the "Amazon Chernobyl." Were it in the United States, it would easily qualify as a Superfund site. Neither side in the case disputes the devastation, only who should pay for it.
Note: For the inspiring story of the courageous Ecuadorian lawyer behind this David vs. Goliath lawsuit, click here. A smear campaign by Chevron against the judge in this case has more recently swayed opinion in favor of Chevron again. Contact your political and media representatives at this link to express your opinion.
Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical companies and their chief executives on Friday, declaring that they "don't make a lot of money" and shouldn't be scapegoats in the health care debate. The mayor — and wealthiest person in New York City with a fortune estimated at $16.5 billion — made the comments on his radio show Friday. "You know, last time I checked, pharmaceutical companies don't make a lot of money, their executives don't make a lot of money," Bloomberg said. Pharmaceutical CEOs are known to make millions, with generous salaries, stock options and other perks. Abbott Laboratories Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Miles White's compensation was $25.3 million in 2008. The North Chicago, Ill.-based company saw profit rising 35 percent to $4.88 billion. Merck & Co.'s chief executive, Richard T. Clark, received a $17.3 million compensation package for 2008. The company's profit more than doubled to $7.8 billion. The mayor ... often battles criticism that he is out of touch with regular people. Earlier this year he declared "we love the rich people" while arguing against raising taxes on the wealthy. It was clear that Bloomberg or one of his aides realized his gaffe while he was still on the air Friday. The mayor, who has sought to cast himself as a financial and business expert, came back from a break and said he had looked up the pay of some pharmaceutical executives. "Some of them are making a decent amount, more than a decent amount of money," he said.
In a study, researchers have found that long-term pot smokers were roughly 62 percent less likely to develop head and neck cancers than people who did not smoke pot. The new study featured 434 patients with head and neck cancers, which include tumors in the mouth, tongue, nose, sinuses, throat and lymph nodes in the neck, and 547 individuals without these cancers seen in the Greater Boston area from December 1999 to December 2003. After factoring out the impact of smoking, drinking, and other factors that might influence the results, smoking marijuana from once every two weeks to three times every two weeks, on average, was associated with about half the risk of head and neck cancer, compared with less frequent use. Those who took up pot smoking at an older age appeared to have less risk of these cancers than those who started it at a younger age. Compared to people who never smoked pot, those who began smoking marijuana between the ages of 15 and 19 years were 47 percent less likely to develop head and neck cancer, while users who began at age 20 or older had a 61 percent reduced risk, Kelsey and colleagues found. The authors note that chemicals in pot called cannabinoids have been shown to have potential antitumor effects. Other studies have linked marijuana use to a reduced risk of some cancers, such as cancer of the prostate, and now head and neck cancer. It's also been suggested that smoking pot may help stave off Alzheimer's disease and help combat weight loss associated with AIDS, and nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy in cancer patients.
Note: For a great nine-minute video presenting major media reports showing how marijuana is a very promising cancer treatment that is being suppressed, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on health issues, click here.
U.S. government health officials are urging Americans not to panic over estimates that up to 90,000 people might die in the United States from swine flu this year. "Everything we've seen in the U.S. and everything we've seen around the world suggests we won't see that kind of number if the virus doesn't change," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the swine flu seems quite easy to catch, it so far hasn't been more deadly than the flu strains seen every fall and winter — many people have only mild illness. And close genetic tracking of the new virus as it circled the globe over the last five months so far has shown no sign that it's mutating to become more virulent. Still, the CDC has been preparing for a worst-case flu season as a precaution — in July working from an estimate slightly more grim than one that made headlines this week — to make sure that if the virus suddenly worsened or vaccination plans fell through, health authorities would know how to react. On Monday the White House released a report from a group of presidential advisers that included a scenario where anywhere from 30 percent to half of the population could catch what doctors call the "2009 H1N1" flu, and death possibilities ranged from 30,000 to 90,000. "We don't think that's the most likely scenario," CDC flu specialist Dr. Anne Schuchat said of the presidential advisers' high-end tally. In a regular flu season, up to 20 per cent of the population is infected and 36,000 die.
Note: Like the avian flu several years ago, the swine flu is turning out to be largely fear-mongering which has poured billions of dollars into the deep pockets of the medical/industrial complex. For lots more reliable information from major media reports on this, click here.
Many GPs, as well as their patients, may be reluctant to be immunised against swine flu once a vaccine is developed, surveys suggest today. A survey of GPs published on Healthcare Republic, the website of GP magazine, found that up to 60% of GPs may decline vaccination. Although the numbers who responded were small – 216 GPs – they are in line with a much bigger survey of nurses published a week ago by Nursing Times, which found that a third of 1,500 nurses would refuse vaccination. A Canadian study published today in the journal Emerging Health Threats suggests the public, too, will have reservations that must be overcome if a vaccination campaign is to be successful in the autumn or winter. The study, which used focus groups to establish the likely response of different people to a vaccine, pointed to the need to win over people who believe that alternative therapies and a good diet are a better option than vaccines. But the biggest problem in persuading people and healthcare professionals to have the jab may be the relative shortage of evidence from trials about its safety and efficacy. Because of the urgent need for a vaccine, testing will be limited. Among the GPs who responded to the survey published by Healthcare Republic, 29% said they would not choose to have the vaccine and 29% said they were unsure whether or not they would. The biggest reason given by those who said they would not have it was concern that the safety trials would not be adequate: 71.3% said they were "concerned that the vaccine has not yet been through sufficient trials to guarantee safety". Half – 50.4% – said they "believe that swine flu is too mild to justify taking the vaccine".
Note: Yet the Massachusetts Senate has now passed a bill which would impose fines up to $1,000 and jail up to 30 days for those who refuse vaccines or quarantine orders in a health emergency. Other states are considering similar legislation. For lots more on the real dangers of the swine flu vaccine, click here.
Healthy people who catch swine flu but show only mild symptoms should not be given Tamiflu, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. The advice contradicts British policy on the issue, which has seen hundreds of thousands of doses of the antiviral given to people with the virus. Today's advice, published on the WHO website, said most patients were experiencing typical flu symptoms and would get better within a week. It said Tamiflu (also called oseltamivir) and another antiviral Relenza (also called zanamivir) should not be given to healthy people who have only mild symptoms. The latest WHO advice, from a panel of international experts, comes as new figures show that 45,986 courses of antivirals were given to patients in England in the week ending August 18. In the previous week, 90,363 courses of antivirals were given out. There have been fears that mass use of Tamiflu will encourage the virus to become resistant to the antiviral. Researchers have also expressed concern over the side effects of the drug, including sickness, nightmares and insomnia in children. A team from Oxford University said earlier this month children with mild symptoms should not be given the antiviral to combat swine flu and urged the Department of Health to urgently rethink its policy.
The flu drugs Tamiflu and Relenza may not be worthwhile to treat seasonal influenza in healthy adults, British researchers reported on Friday. "Recommending the use of antiviral drugs for the treatment of people presenting with symptoms is unlikely to be the most appropriate course of action," wrote Jane Burch of the University of York and colleagues. Their study, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, supports an advisory from the World Health Organization that says healthy patients who get H1N1 swine flu without suffering complications do not need to be treated with antivirals. Burch's team reviewed many different published studies on Tamiflu and Relenza. "We present the results for healthy adults and people at-risk of influenza-related complications," they wrote. Both drugs shaved about half a day, on average, off the time patients were ill, they found. Influenza usually affects people for about a week. The drugs worked a little better in people who have a high risk of complications, such as patients with diabetes or asthma, with Relenza cutting sickness by almost a day and Tamiflu by three-quarters of a day, on average. This suggests the drugs should be reserved for people who need them the most, the researchers concluded.
Note: To read a powerful account of the real dangers of the swine flu scare, click here.
Somewhere in Iowa, a pig is being raised in a confined pen, packed in so tightly with other swine that their curly tails have been chopped off so they won't bite one another. To prevent him from getting sick in such close quarters, he is dosed with antibiotics. The waste produced by the pig and his thousands of pen mates on the factory farm where they live goes into manure lagoons that blanket neighboring communities with air pollution and a stomach-churning stench. He's fed on American corn that was grown with the help of government subsidies and millions of tons of chemical fertilizer. When the pig is slaughtered, at about 5 months of age, he'll become sausage or bacon that will sell cheap, feeding an American addiction to meat that has contributed to an obesity epidemic currently afflicting more than two-thirds of the population. And when the rains come, the excess fertilizer that coaxed so much corn from the ground will be washed into the Mississippi River and down into the Gulf of Mexico, where it will help kill fish for miles and miles around. That's the state of your bacon — circa 2009. The U.S. agricultural industry can now produce unlimited quantities of meat and grains at remarkably cheap prices. But it does so at a high cost to the environment, animals and humans. Those hidden prices are the creeping erosion of our fertile farmland, cages for egg-laying chickens so packed that the birds can't even raise their wings and the scary rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria among farm animals. Add to the price tag the acceleration of global warming — our energy-intensive food system uses 19% of U.S. fossil fuels, more than any other sector of the economy. And perhaps worst of all, our food is increasingly bad for us, even dangerous.
Note: For a powerful summary of the dangers of modern industrial food production, click here.
A warning that the new swine flu jab is linked to a deadly nerve disease has been sent by the Government to senior neurologists in a confidential letter. The letter from the Health Protection Agency, the official body that oversees public health, has been leaked to The Mail on Sunday, leading to demands to know why the information has not been given to the public before the vaccination of millions of people, including children, begins. [The letter] tells the neurologists that they must be alert for an increase in a brain disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which could be triggered by the vaccine. GBS attacks the lining of the nerves, causing paralysis and inability to breathe, and can be fatal. The letter, sent to about 600 neurologists on July 29, is the first sign that there is concern at the highest levels that the vaccine itself could cause serious complications. It refers to the use of a similar swine flu vaccine in the United States in 1976 when: * More people died from the vaccination than from swine flu. * 500 cases of GBS were detected. * The vaccine may have increased the risk of contracting GBS by eight times. * The vaccine was withdrawn after just ten weeks when the link with GBS became clear. * The US Government was forced to pay out millions of dollars to those affected. Concerns have already been raised that the new vaccine has not been sufficiently tested and that the effects, especially on children, are unknown. The British Neurological Surveillance Unit (BNSU), part of the British Association of Neurologists, has been asked to monitor closely any cases of GBS as the vaccine is rolled out. One senior neurologist said last night: ‘I would not have the swine flu jab because of the GBS risk.’
Note: For more on the swine flu scare and the dangers of vaccines, click here.
The time, money and manpower that lobbying firms devote to courting lawmakers reveals an investment inside the Beltway of staggering proportions. For every lawmaker in Congress, there are about six lobbyists pushing their health care priorities, according to a Bloomberg News investigation released today. That's about 3,300 registered health care lobbyists working Capitol Hill. A total of $263 million has been spent on health lobbying in 2009, according to the latest data from the Center for Responsive Politics. That's more money spent on health than any other sector this year. The list of the top 20 spenders in 2009 across all sectors includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at No. 1, spending more than $26 million, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) at No. 3, spending $13 million, and Pfizer in the No. 6 spot, spending $11 million. Also joining the ranks of the top 20 spenders this year are Blue Cross Blue Shield, AARP, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and Eli Lilly, each having doled out between $7 and $10 million this year. Wendell Potter, a 20-year health insurance veteran and former CIGNA vice president, ... spoke out about insurance companies operating behind the scenes. Potter recalled previous health care fights, saying insurers have undoubtedly tried to shape the battle. "It is usually done through the PR firms that work for them," Potter said. "They want to keep their fingerprints off stuff like that. "With this history, you can rest assured that the industry is up to the same dirty tricks, using the same devious PR practices it has used for many years to kill reform this year, or even better, to shape it so that it benefits insurance companies and their Wall Street investors far more than average Americans," he said.
Note: For lots more on the corrupt medical/governmental complex, click here.
[Anne Underwood:] President Obama hopes to increase the number of Americans with insurance and to rein in costs. Do you believe any of the plans under consideration by Congress will accomplish those goals? [Dr. Marcia Angell:] They won’t, and that’s the essential problem. If you keep health care in the hands of for-profit companies, you can do one or the other — increase coverage by putting more money into the system, or control costs by decreasing coverage. But you cannot do both unless you change the basic structure of the system. Q. Segments of the health care industry — pharmaceutical companies, for instance — are promising to cut costs. A. It’s not going to happen. These are investor-owned companies. Their fiduciary responsibility is to maximize profits. If they behaved like charities, heads would roll in the executive suites. Q. But what about market mechanisms for reducing costs? Wouldn’t the public option, for instance, provide competition for the insurance companies? A. Theoretically it would, but I doubt the public plan will pass. Industry is lobbying against it, and the president has not said this is a “must.” Even if it does pass, I’m afraid the private insurance industry will use their clout in Congress — and they have enormous clout in Congress — to hobble the public option and use it as a dumping ground for the sickest while they cream off the young and healthy for themselves. Q. How? Won’t insurance companies have to cover all applicants regardless of health status? A. It’s hard to regulate an enormous industry without setting up a bureaucracy to oversee it. That’s very expensive and creates a whole new set of problems.
Note: Dr. Marcia Angell is a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School and former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. A longtime critic of the pharmaceutical industry, she has called for an end to market-driven delivery of health care in the United States. To read a two-page summary of her critique of market-driven health care, click here.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.