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The Healthcare Credibility Problem

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I am a strong supporter of doctors and the healthcare industry in general. I grew up with a stepfather who was a general practicing physician and a surgeon. He was a family doctor in the truest sense of the word. He made house calls, delivered more than 5,000 babies, bartered for fees, and often just waived the charges. He had a God-given genius for diagnosis, and he spoke to his patients in plain English, sometimes very colorful language. But my mother was always quick to remind him, “After all, you are just ‘practicing’ medicine!”

People have a tendency to venerate doctors, and when they heroically save your life, this hero worship can be justified. Our long-time family doctor is another diagnostician extraordinaire, who also happens to be one of my best friends and hunting buddy. When he sewed up my son’s forehead on our dining room table, he too was vaulted into that hero category.

But something has happened to the medical profession and the healthcare industry -- at 15% of the U.S. economy, it has become an industry complete with industry titans -- and as the pandemic accelerated, healthcare’s credibility problem only worsened.

Beginning in the 1990s, many doctors stopped practicing medicine on their own as the medical profession model changed from entrepreneurial to corporate medicine. As doctors and their offices began to be overwhelmed with insurance claim processing, Medicare and Medicaid compliance, malpractice suits, and medical liability insurance issues, doctors saw the hospital-affiliated-clinic model as the way to skip the bureaucratic headaches and allow the professional to focus on practicing medicine. However, corporate medicine brought corporate practices: cutting back time with patients to increase cash flow, more Medicare/Medicaid compliant procedures rather than patient-centric medicine, and outsourced billing and collection systems.

Around the same time, pharmaceutical companies began marketing drugs directly to the consumers. Like the “Mother’s Little Helpers” of the........

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