Medical Bureaucracy

So I was thinking about our discussion on Tuesday about the problems associated with modern medicine and I decided to look further into issues doctors face in light of the system.  As Alessandra pointed out, doctors have to fight and/or prevent frivolous malpractice suits, but what other hoops do they have to jump through just to treat their patients?  I was specifically curious about the medical bureaucracy.  In the U.S. I would think that most of the hassles revolve around insurance claims, but as this article – canmedaj01127-0096 – points out, the hassles in Canada generally revolve around the government.  Doctors not only have to fill out countless amounts of paperwork, but also justify their expenditures, despite the fact that they are drawing from largely insufficient funds.

I’m really curious to see how the health care bill will shift the medical bureaucracy.  In a country the the size of the U.S. the amount of paperwork, committees, and central and peripheral offices it would take to run  such a system boggles the mind.  I have high hopes that universal healthcare will work here, and improve the lives of people who currently have to make difficult health choices based on money, but I worry about the implications of such a system for doctors, and subsequently their patients.

Anyway this post is simply food for thought in relation to unforeseen ways in which the healthcare overhaul could affect the SES health gradient based on treatments doctors are able to provide/justify and whether wealthier families will turn to private health insurance.  Although as we have learned from the Sapolsky chapter, the best medicine money can buy is not always all it’s cracked up to be.

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2 thoughts on “Medical Bureaucracy

  1. Stephanie, this is really interesting. I think you bring up some excellent points in your interpretation. Having a doctor in the family, I’m quite certain that there are few doctors – if any – that are in agreement with Obama’s health care plan. It is interesting how doctors are less and less valued in society, and this plan reinforces that with sub-par compensation numbers for doctors. They are up against an incredible amount of stress and bureaucracy (talk about their shrinking brains). It would be interesting to see how doctors with low SES growing up versus high SES growing up are affected later in their lives by having such a high stress profession.

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  2. Stephanie – You talk about the committees, paperwork, etc. that would be necessary to support a universal healthcare system. When I was in Copenhagen last spring, I learned about something else that is necessary for universal health care: homogeneity and commonality. While I’m not totally convinced of this, the Danish will tell you that this type of system will only work if you feel connected to, and genuinely want to support, your countrymen (and women, of course). I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Americans do not feel obliged to help one another the way truly homogenous cultures, like the Scandinavians, do – and it is they who we always use as an exemplar in regards to universal health care. I wonder what other “characteristics” the U.S. is missing, or has, that would support or undermine a fight for universal healthcare…?

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