Real Health Care Reform: Breaking the Grip of the Pharmaceutical Companies

by Anne Wilder Chamberlain

On August 28, G. Edward Griffin, author of The Creature from Jekyll Island, (2002) sent out this email. A reader asked, "In reading all of the articles [you are] presenting against healthcare reform, it's easy for one to conclude that you like the healthcare system that we have right now, and are in support of it remaining exactly the same. But we as a nation spend so much more money per family than other Western countries do on health care, and our health insurance companies sometimes deny paying claims for people who have been insured with them for years, in the interest of maximizing their company's profits….What do you recommend as the solution for these problems?" Griffin’s response was short and sweet: He wrote that the present health care system represents a near monopoly of drug-oriented health care, a result of pharmaceutical companies spending huge amounts of money to lobby Congress to pass laws that seriously handicap non-drug health care. That is also why the system is so expensive. If competition from alternative practitioners were allowed, the quality would actually go up while the cost would be drastically reduced.

"The reason I am not in favor of socialized medicine is that the problems with today's system would be made worse," he wrote. "Drug-based care would be further entrenched, what is left of freedom-of-choice would be completely extinguished, the everincreasing costs would be paid by the common man through taxes and inflation, and the quality would decline. The only solution to the problems in our present health-care system is to get the government OUT of it completely, not to increase its role." agrees, observing that answers to the health-care problems facing our country have not been found because people have been looking in the wrong place. Its solution is to permit alternatives to rigid medical institutions, allow medical students to utilize free internet programs, and learn by assisting practicing physicians while offering valuable, free services to doctors. Since the expense of healthcare is directly proportional to the cost of the doctor's education, there would soon be a greater number of doctors, and the cost of healthcare would plummet.

This would require a paradigm shift in Congress concerning the manner in which health is created in our country – and the world. Essentially, the practice of medicine would be taken out of the hands of the pharmaceutical companies and the Associations and Colleges that they subsidize, and put back into the hands of mothers and family doctors who know and care about their patients and who see the effects on people of the destructive medical paradigm – based on money and greed – that we are drowning in today. With the numbers of deaths in this country from the prescribed use of pharmaceutical drugs estimated at 227,000 per year, putting them as the third leading cause of death in the US, behind only heart disease and cancer, or "tobacco use and poor diet and physical inactivity." As the drugwarfacts website puts it, it is time to reassess how our country defines "health care."

Town Hall Meetings

Commissioner Cornel Rasor, of Bonner County, Idaho, added in a speech he made at a town hall meeting August 22, 2008: "We have allowed government to ‘frame the debate.’ We hear of the move to reform healthcare in America. Is it in fact the responsibility of government to ‘reform’ healthcare? Is healthcare a right that government is tasked with protecting like free speech, a speedy trial by jury, safety from cruel and unusual punishment? I studied the governing document and didn't find healthcare in there. We have been ‘snookered’ into debating a direction that the government has no jurisdiction to pursue."

He suggested some actions that the federal government could take that would be authorized by the constitution, as recommended by Hans-Hermann Hoppe and the Mises Institute:

  1. Eliminate all licensing requirements for medical schools, hospitals, pharmacies, medical doctors and other health-care personnel. Their supply would almost instantly increase, prices would fall, and a greater variety of health-care services would appear on the market. Competing voluntary accreditation agencies would take the place of compulsory government licensing. Such accreditation would enhance their reputation, and because consumers would no longer be duped into believing that there is such a thing as a "national standard" of health care, they would make more discriminating health-care choices.
  2. Eliminate all government restrictions on the production and sale of pharmaceutical products and medical devices. This means no more Food and Drug Administration, which presently hinders innovation and increases costs. Costs and prices would fall, and a wider variety of better products would reach the market sooner. The market would force consumers to act in accordance with their own — rather than the government's — risk assessment. And competing drug and device manufacturers and sellers, to safeguard against product liability suits as much as to attract customers, would provide increasingly better product descriptions and guarantees.
  3. Deregulate the health-insurance industry. Because a person's health, or lack of it, lies predominantly within his own control, most health risks are actually uninsurable. "Insurance" against risks whose likelihood an individual can personally influence falls within that person's own responsibility.
    All insurance, moreover, involves the pooling of individual risks. Insurers pay more to some and less to others. But if high risk "winner$" and low-risk "loser$" could be systematically predicted, "loser$" would not want to pool their risk with "winner$," but rather with other low-risk folk, because this would lower their insurance costs. For instance, a white-collar worker would not want to pool his personal accident risks with those of professional football players but with people in circumstances similar to him, at a lower cost. But because of current legal restrictions on the health insurers' right of refusal — to exclude any individual risk as uninsurable — the industry cannot discriminate freely among various groups of people which pose significantly different insurance risks.
    As a result, health insurers cover a multitude of uninsurable risks pooled with genuine insurance risks. The industry thus runs a system of income redistribution — benefiting irresponsible actors and high-risk groups at the expense of responsible individuals and low-risk groups. Accordingly, the industry's prices are high and ballooning.
    Deregulating the industry would restore it to unrestricted freedom of contract: allowing health insurers to offer any contract whatsoever, to include or exclude any risk, and to discriminate among any groups of individuals. Uninsurable risks would lose coverage – or would be covered by entrepreneurs offering such coverage at high rates; the variety of insurance policies for the remaining coverage would increase; and price differentials would reflect genuine insurance risks. In the free market, most prices would drastically fall and individual responsibility in health care would be restored.
  4. Eliminate all subsidies to the sick or unhealthy. Subsidies create more of whatever is being subsidized. Subsidies for the ill and diseased promote carelessness and dependency. If we eliminate such subsidies, we would strengthen the will to live healthy lives and to work for a living. That means abolishing Medicare and Medicaid. As Kitty Werthman stated in her testimony, "Lesson from Austria, Would You Vote for Hitler?" if medical treatment is "free," people run to the doctor for every little splinter and sniffle – which is what Medicaid recipients do today, inevitably raising the price of medical care for everyone.
  5. And lastly, the commissioner recommended that churches retake their responsibility to those who are in need of help and cannot find it elsewhere. Jesus called us to care for the poor, but not with other people's money. He never called the Sanhedrin or Herod's government to aid the poor. He called His disciples to that mission.
    In short, our country must move back to a medical world where doctors can make a profit, even when coming to your home. Those who don’t remember house calls were born after the beginning of the current system that introduced the idea that health-care is a "right."

Alternative Physicians today

Dr. Sherri J. Tenpenny, author of FOWL, Bird Flu: It’s Not What You Think (2006), told an audience last year in Spokane that she was trained at a typical medical school (Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine), but it was not until she began her practice that she realized that she had only been given half the information in school. She had learned next to nothing about nutrition and its effects on health; so she went back to school on her own to get the rest of the story. Like cellular biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton, she discovered that health is far more related to environmental influences such as peace of mind and the purity of the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink, than it is to "preventive" pharmaceuticals and medical tests recommended by the pharmaceutical-controlled American Medical Association. In 1996 she founded the OsteoMed II Clinic in Cleveland, OH, to provide the best of integrative medicine to patients. HR3200 would either put her and those like her out of business, or force them to comply with government regulations, not based on their own education and experience, but rather on the desires of those who spend the most money lobbying Congress. According to a 2009 Common Cause study – Legislating Under the Influence - that figure stands at $1.4 million per day as this "healthcare" debate is going on. This cannot help but have an effect on the cost of health care.

Selling Sickness

Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels, pharmaceutical policy researchers, authors of Selling Sickness, How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies are Turning us All into Patients, (2005) reported that although the US only contains 5% of the world’s population, we consume 50% of the world’s pharmaceutical drugs. They stated that in the late 1990s there was a loosening of advertising regulations that delivered an onslaught of drug marketing that targeted ordinary people. They added that pharmaceutical corporations actually hire marketing companies to work with them to help create new diseases. Vince Parry, in his 2003 article "The Art of Branding a Condition," tells how these companies create medical disorders. They fulfill Merck Corp. chief executive Henry Gadsden’s thirty year dream of making drugs for healthy people. The latest of these new "diseases" was recently reported on the internet by Jeff Rense. The British Dietetic Association Mental Health Disorder has determined that people who are fixated on eating healthy food and avoiding soy, corn, dairy products and processed food are sufferers of the eating disorder, "Orthorexia Nervosa," which mostly occurs in middleaged, middle-class and well-educated members of society. Moynihan and Cassels also reported that children as young as three years old are being screened for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The "dangerous level" drugs are deemed necessary for this has been lowered over the last several years.

Break the Grip

We could save $billions in medical costs if Congress took one step and reduced the power of Big Pharma and its associated corporations in Washington. Congress could pass HR 2038, the CLEAR Act - Clean Law for Earmark Accountability Reform legislation, which would ban lawmakers from taking campaign contributions from corporate senior executives, lobbyists or Political Action Committees, and S 1285, the Fair Elections Now Act, which would eliminate corporate financing of elections. Congress could refuse to designate tax dollars for financing pharmaceutical research and put a stop to their deadly drug pushing on TV and radio as happened with tobacco. Finally, Congress could cease government funding related to amphetamine (Ritalin) and anti-depressant (SSRI) drug requirements and "mental health" testing in the public school system. In this manner we would reduce the cost of medical care without stealing freedom of choice from anyone. If Congress would then focus on Rep. Kathleen Dahlkemper’s (D-PA) bill, HR 3144, the Healthy Communities Act of 2009, which recommends exercise, locally grown, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, and community-wide nutrition and fitness education, not subsidized by any agri-business groups or associations, the incidence of disease and the need for medical practitioners in this country would diminish.

Griffin summarized the solution in his book, World Without Cancer (1996), when he stated that it is a prerequisite for us to realize that the pharmaceutical cartels’ monopoly are not the product of free enterprise, but just the reverse. Monopolies cannot exist without government intervention and sanction. Government is the cause of this problem, not the solution. When someone says, "We want the FDA….or our congressman, to do something about this," he is barking up the wrong tree. The best thing we should be asking our congressmen for is to get the government off the back of private research and out of the field of medical practice.