Wealth is Health

Let’s talk about healthcare today. Logically, the most neglected sector in an individualistic society.

Needless to say, healthcare is not a state responsibility anywhere in the world. Even as the unwell are left to fend for themselves, they always have been needed to take care of financial needs of the medical professionals. As is with the doctors, representing a class of elites, they most certainly tend to their class interests. Hence the rich in the society get the best treatment and the poor are left in the lurch.

The irony however is that the poor, owing to health habits and sanitation practices are more likely to get affected and owing to their economic conditions, they are less likely to get treated. Statistics convene the direct correlation between wealth and health.

This is nothing surprising here, since it’s merely logical. What however is shocking, are the ways in which the ruling powers boast of their healthcare sectors to normalize the contrary claims to be unfounded. It works when one asks if there is a class system in society, and gets a prompt reply “Class? What class?”

Within the healthcare sector in the United States, for example, there are approximately 45 million people officially, who are without health insurance coverage. The number of uninsured rose 1.4 million annually (according to a study published by U.S. Census Bureau., August 2004 and prepared officially by DeNavas-Walt, C., B. Proctor, and R. J. Mills, titled “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States”). Nearly 82 million — about one-third of the population below the age of 65 spent a portion of a year without health coverage.

Millions of workers don’t have the opportunity to get coverage. A third of firms in the U.S. do not offer coverage. According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s Employee Health Benefits: 2004 Annual Survey published in September 2004, rapidly rising health insurance premiums is the main reason cited by firms for not offering coverage. Health insurance premiums are rising at extraordinary rates. Over the past five years the average annual increase in inflation has been 2.5 percent while health insurance premiums have escalated an average of 11.4 percent annually.

Of course, I am sure people are quite familiar with the figures. What however is often missed from the central discussion is the way a systematic class division thrives in healthcare sector, leading to even further (more than 80% of) disguised healthcare benefit losses. For example, a HMO deals with a provider/Individual Practitioner Association that maintains its own centralized medical facilities. In order to receive treatment, an individual must go to one of the HMO’s facilities only. This is the least expensive and most enrolled division and naturally enough, it’s most limited by choices.

The Point-of-Service (POS) plans, a relatively new concept in the health insurance industry combine the a limited freedom of choice with the medical management of a primary care physician typically found in HMOs. This costs way more than the HMOs. The third, which is the Preferred Provider Networks (PPO), is a group of doctors that has agreed to discount their fees for services in exchange for access to a group of subscribers. PPOs also provide one with the choice of using either a network doctor or a doctor of one’s own choosing. This type of plan gives the real freedom of choice because one can go to a specialist without a referral from any primary care physician.

With such clear class divisions—ranging from the patients limited by a few doctors to the doctors limited to a few patients—among healthcare, the elitist bias pervades beyond the obvious.

The latest issue of Rolling Stone has Robert Kennedy Jr. describing how the US government, after causing 15 fold increase in autism within its own population has decided to spread the same to China (after a couple of years I am sure autism will be alleged to be of Chinese origin).

Since 1991, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration had recommended that three additional vaccines laced with the preservative be given to extremely young infants — in one case, within hours of birth — the estimated number of cases of autism had increased fifteenfold, from one in every 2,500 children to one in 166 children. Kennedy says:

More than 500,000 kids currently suffer from autism, and pediatricians diagnose more than 40,000 new cases every year. ……The story of how government health agencies colluded with Big Pharma to hide the risks of thimerosal from the public is a chilling case study of institutional arrogance, power and greed. I was drawn into the controversy only reluctantly. As an attorney and environmentalist who has spent years working on issues of mercury toxicity, I frequently met mothers of autistic children who were absolutely convinced that their kids had been injured by vaccines. Privately, I was skeptical.

The article reveals the nature of medical profession as evolved today. From the elitist enrolments in rated schools in order to hike the rate of the doctors in the market to their heightened professional roles they play in staying detached from the patient welfare, to their collusion with the pharmaceutical companies which sponsor anything for them –free world tour to wine bottles—in lieu of their assured prescriptions of certain drugs over certain others, to finally allowing the profession be ruined by political will to shove corporate agenda down the throats of the unwell-financially and emotionally.

Not unusually then, the doctors have no connection with the Hippocrates Oath whatsoever. I am not even sure if today’s medical professionals go through the Oath made around 400 BC (some portions of it of course, like all classical texts, need radical corrections), where some thoughts about social commitments of doctors, stand as a wishful thought for the day in a competitively engaged inhuman society as ours is reduced today to:

I SWEAR by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation- to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot!

(THE OATH by Hippocrates: Translated by Francis Adams)


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