Medicine: the Symbol of Greed?

The standard icon for medicine

The symbol for medicine really tells a story of what has happened to modern medicine.  Instead of being the Greek/Roman symbol of medicine, the symbol was pulled from a publisher mark for medical books.  (Refer to http://www.annals.org/content/138/8/673.abstract ) or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caduceus.

The true meaning is that it represents the emblem of merchants.  And… isn’t that what doctors have become?  They work for corporations that are interested in making money?  According to some articles I’ve read, medicine has shifted from physician run hospitals, clinics and offices to corporate run entities that are after the green.  Not that greed is medicine’s child, but the merchant focus of medicine today is quite apparent.

In Preventive Medicine and the Seven Deadly Sins: Avoiding Discipline Against your Medical License” author Laura Sweet writes that “According to the United States General Accounting Office and health insurance industry sources, between 3% and 10% of any state’s Medicaid budget is lost due to fraud and abuse. The federal Office of the Inspector General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit convicted 1,226 individuals in Fiscal Year 2006 and recovered more than $1.1 billion in court-ordered restitution, fines, civil settlements and penalties. Additionally, due to health insurance fraud, 3,425 practitioners were excluded from participation in the Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs.  In California the fact is that “Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud filed 94 criminal cases for fraud. During that same period, 65 individuals were convicted. To avoid encouraging a risk/benefit analysis, it should be noted that this disparity is due to the pendency of the remaining criminal cases. Zero individuals were acquitted during this time period. Over six million dollars was paid in criminal restitution and defendants paid $267,854,037 in civil monetary recoveries.  See the rest of the story:  http://www.medbd.ca.gov/licensee/seven_sins-greed.html

So where do we draw the line?  When capitalism takes over medicine, we get cheated going in and out the medical doors.  First we are cheated with very limited contact with physicians.  The bed side manners are gone.  Secondly we lost ethical billing.  Thirdly we have costs that are not supported by evidence and practices that are motivated by greed.  This is not the best medicine.

Doctors warn each other when it comes to their practices to avoid “Unlawful kickback,” from referring Medicare patients to services which “he or she has a financial relationship, from submitting claims” that they should know or should know will lead to greater payments than are appropriate.” (see http://www.annals.org/content/128/8/678.full.pdf+html?sid=3f31533f-99e5-48ed-bcef-86761ef51ba5)

Medicare  is a federal program and not an insurance company.  They realize that to save money they could investigate fraud.  But insurers regularly pay claims without verifying the legitimacy of that claim.  So if the corruption with Medicare is so high, how much higher is it with normal insurers.  This is magnified when the biller is a corporately held medical company run by business men and women.

Medicine is something all of us hope will save us from disease, injury and poor health.  We value our health, but have we let the thief in the house and the pickpocket in our drawers?


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