Politics and Profits
To protect its interests and expand its influence, the health care industrial complex has done what all successful special interests do: It’s become a big donor and a high-powered lobby in Washington. In the last fifteen years, HMOs, insurers, pharmacuetical companies, hospital corporations, physicians, and other segments of the industry contributed $479 million to political campaigns–more than the energy industry ($315 million), commercial banks ($133 million), and big tobacco ($52 million). More telling is how much the health care industry spends on lobbying. It invests more than any other industry except one, according to the nonpartiisan Center for Responsive Politics. From 1997 to 2000, the most recent year for which complete data is available, the industry spent $734 million lobbying Congress and the executive branch. Only the finance, insurance, and real estate lobby exceeded that amount in the same period, with a ttoal of $823 million. In contrast, the defense industry spent $211 million–less than one-third of the health care expenditure.
These telling statistics indicate just how vigorously profit-seeking forces in heart care are trying to preserve the status quo. Hospitals want to protect their valuable procedure-driven enterprise, the pharmaceutical industry wants to protect its enormous though little-known niche of procedure-based medications (like $1200 a dose ReoPro), and the medical device industry wants to maintain the multi-billion dollar-generating machine aided and abetted by the FDA’s 501k rule (that makes entry to market a breeze).
The current procedure based formula for heart disease profits so many and they are desperate to preserve it. Resistance to the deep-pocketed efforts of industry and hospitals will come from people like you and me, trying to propagate a better way.
Remember: hospital procedures for coronary disease represent the failure of prevention. They are not–any longer–successes in and of themselves.
Read a scathing insight into some of these practices by reading investigative journalists’ Donald Barlett and James Steele’s book, Critical Condition. I found their descriptions painfully accurate. (But don’t get too angry! Remember: only optimists reverse their plaque! We need to turn the conversation in a positive direction, not just in this Blog or the Track Your Plaque website, but nationwide.)
One of the new missions for the www.trackyourplaque.com website is to help you understand just how powerful, insidious, shrewd, and pervasive the efforts to maintain the current system truly are.
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