Michael Townes Watson

Pervasive Commercialization of Healthcare Services

Although there are still pervasive attempts by the insurance industry to blame the high cost of healthcare on injured patients and their lawyers, the truth lies elsewhere. According to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the cost is mostly attributable to the “pervasive commercialization” of healthcare products and services. (See

I am always impressed by the quality of the factual examination and evaluation of the authors printed in this Journal, and this particular author is no exception. He pinpoints the fact that our system has forced limitations on the primary care doctor’s most precious commodity—his time—adequate time to review a chart, take a history, truly listen to a patient. “You can't do all that in 10 minutes.” The result, he says, is missed cues, mistakes, and more tests to compensate for a lack of hands-on examination.

His conclusion is not that we should limit patients’ lawsuits to reduce the cost of healthcare. In fact, he dismisses “excessive litigation and defensive medicine” as non-factors in the escalating cost of medical care. His culprits, rather than lawyers and patients, are “profits, billing, marketing, and the gratuitous costs of private bureaucracies [that] siphon off $400 billion to $500 billion of the $2.1 trillion spent.” An even more serious and less appreciated syndrome is the “set of perverse incentives produced by commercial dominance of the system.”

According to this author, then, it is not the greediness of the trial lawyers or the patients looking for a “lawsuit lottery” who are to blame. It is, instead, the greed of a different group, he says, “the dominance of for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies, a new wave of investor-owned specialty hospitals, and profit-maximizing behavior even by nonprofit players.”

This author is not a trial lawyer, not an aggrieved patient, not a lobbyist for a lawyer group. Instead, he is an advocate for universal healthcare coverage. He examined the economics of healthcare systems in other countries where “everyone is covered and there are no incentives to pursue the most profitable treatments rather than those dictated by medical need.” He found these systems to have far safer standards that avoid adverse consequences, as well as avoiding excessive costs.

The author concludes that a universal healthcare system is the best way to match healthcare resources with patient needs. I draw a further conclusion that seems inescapable from this article: The profit motive of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries is a significant incentive for those industries to do everything in their power to perpetuate the profits. That means they blame the injured patients and lawyers for the high cost of healthcare so that they can perpetuate those profits. Their propaganda serves this purpose well.

Michael Townes Watson, author of America’s Tunnel Vision—How Insurance Companies’ Propaganda Is Corrupting Medicine and Law.

Michael Townes Watson: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 9:45 AM, Feb 19, 2008 in Debunking Tort "Reform" | Medical Malpractice | Tort "Reform" Myth-Busting | reports and research
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Commie Care is cheap care. As a patient, I would resist it to the utmost.

Commie Care killed Princess Diana. In the worst slums of the US, the police would have called in a helicopter. She would have been flown to the nearest specialized trauma center. Within 20 minutes, she would have been opened up by a thoracic surgeon, had her aorta tear repaired, and had a chance at survival.

Instead, she got Commie Care. No helicopter. No trauma center. No trained technicians. No treatment equipment in the rescue vehicle. She got futzing at the scene by incompetents for 45 minutes. Then, the tertiary care center is only 4 miles away. What do they do? They drive around for another hour. They stop to do street resuscitation on a patient with internal bleeding. CPR is for heart attack victims. If you push on the chest of someone with a torn aorta, you pump out blood faster than her heart is doing already.

Under Commie Care, no dialysis past a certain age. Happy Birthday. You will die this week, as toxins build up off dialysis.

Castro, a Commie, gets sick. Does he get Commie Care? No. He gets a jetliner full of modern equipment and a surgeon flown over from Spain for his care. I have no doubt that if permitted he would have flown to the Mayo Clinic and gotten the Deluxe Workup Package.

The author of the left wing ideologue NEJM, and the dirtbag plaintiff lawyer quoting him are stalking horses for larger central government. Central government is a wholly owned subsidiary of the criminal cult enterprise that is the lawyer profession. They want the $2 tril for themselves.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | February 19, 2008 4:33 PM

The economics of healthcare are both complicated and convoluted. Yes there is profit at every level just as there are taxes and liability. One of the major issues that I can never fathom is why patients can not purchase medications from the pharmaceutical company. Instead, the pharm company has to sell to a wholesale distributor who takes a profit and pays taxes, then sells to a pharmacy chain that pays taxes and assumes liability, and lastly sells to the patient at a profit, pays taxes and assumes liability. By the time the patient gets the med, taxes on the same medication have been paid at least three times and there are at least three levels of profit.

With the VA, I saw how much the medications actually cost vs what was charged in the community and there was a great savings. The VA cut the middlemen.

Is Universal healthcare the answer. No, fixing the laws that regulate medicince are. The VA did not have to adhere to the same laws as the rest of the medical comminutity. (By the way, ask VETS if they did not have to pay if they would rather go to the VA or the local Medical Center). The reason there are so many middlemen is that is what is required by law. We need to fix the regulations. Just look at what the Stark laws did.

Now, if we want to look at the legal applications of Universal care, we have to look at what it will actually pay for. Is it going to pay for all medical care? Unfortuantely it will not be able to and we will have the same problems as Canada and all the others that have tried it. Care will be denied to some who feel that they are entitled to it by the fact that it will be Universal. I can just see the ACLU fighting for the right of Universal care covering sex changes and all the other things that they are presently fighting insurance companies for in the US. Just try to get a urgent mri of the brain in Canada. To place limits on what Universal care will cover will create even more lawsuits when people have permanent brain injury as a result of failure to diagnose tumors, strokes etc. because Universal care doesn't over MRIs for headaches until certail criteria are met or pay for c-sections etc.

Lastly, it is the motivation for profit that leads to innovation and research. If we look at all the new medical technology that has come about in the last 10 years it becomes clear that the vast majority is the result of private firms and not the NIH or other government funded sites. This is especially clear when you consider that many medical research and manufactoring firms are now moved to Europe and away from our shores.

If we want to fix medicine, we need to fix how it is regulated. Present regulations prevent competition by forcing multiple levels of management, profit and taxation. You got to love Pete Stark! Universal Healthcare is great until you get sick or are over 65 and need dialysis, a total joint or a transplant.

As a side note, both the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics as well as many border medical centers are doing a great profit business taking care of patients from parts of the world with Universal Care who cant get the care they want in their home countries.

Posted by: throckmorton | February 19, 2008 9:52 PM

You seem surprised that Doctors are out to make a buck. How many attorneys practice law in order to sertve mankind and to advance and defend the US Constitution?

Not a doggone one of them, that's how many ! Particularly with the plaintiff bar, it is ALWAYS about the money.

Until a few years back attorney advertising was prohibited. The plaintiff bar worked hard to remove this restriction in order to be able to drum up more business, and for no other reason

Posted by: Paul W Dennis | February 20, 2008 12:08 AM

I would like Watson to tell us the fraction of his medmal cases that end up in favor of the plaintiff, by settlement or verdict.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | February 20, 2008 8:17 AM