Monday, November 2, 2015

The following piece by me was published in the Concord Monitor over the weekend. It is similar to many of the pieces in my book Granite Grumblings.  I apologize for not putting any postings up for a while but my wife has been ill and I have been otherwise occupied. I hope you enjoy this little discussion of reality TV shows and the pharmaceutical industry.
Glenn K. Currie

I used to wonder who sponsors a lot of the really dumb reality shows that seem to assault our senses every night. They seem to prove that there is a bottomless pit of gullibility and inanity in this country. And then I realized that these are on the air, at least partially, as another negative side effect of a healthcare system run amok. People will believe anything if it is said enough, and the pharmaceutical industry has figured out that the watchers of reality shows are the perfect targets for their products.

This is possible of course as a result of the huge amount of money now sloshing around in our   healthcare system and the total confusion surrounding its administration. Anytime you put the IRS in charge of a system you can pretty much guarantee that no one is really going to understand how it works. These are the same people who gave us a tax system that has grown like a giant amoeba and went past rational comprehension about forty years ago. And then we let the bureaucrats loose to write regulations for a 2000 page bill that nobody understood or even read when it was passed. Some of the results have been huge increases in costs for some, loss of caregivers for others, and numerous cases of double billing, double dipping and fraud by patients, healthcare professionals and insurance companies. Of special note here are the pharmaceutical companies who are making a fortune off this stuff based on all the ads they run for totally obscure drugs.

 In the space of a few hours last night I tracked all the drug ads that were on prime time (mostly reality) TV.. Here are a few examples: Movantek, Xaralto, Trulicity, Prevnair 13, Prevagen D, Invokana, Stolana, and Xifaxin. There are more but you get my point. I defy anyone to tell me what all of these do. If you can, you watch too much TV. The only thing these drugs have in common are a stream of side effects that scare the hell out of people. Yet somehow consumers, who don’t have to pay for them, run to their doctors demanding they get them and their doctors, who don’t have to pay for them, prescribe them. Oh yeah, and the rest of us do pay for them in higher health costs, the profits from which support reality TV and lots of other slightly less inane offerings.

As a result of “The Affordable Care Act”, we are throwing an expected 20,000,000(?) more patients onto the roles, but we are cutting the pay of our primary caregivers and demanding that they see more patients per hour. We are also demanding huge new levels of record keeping (presumably so we can keep track of how much money is being stolen from the system). This in turn requires huge new investments in hardware and software by hospitals, caregivers, insurance companies, etc. Not surprisingly, out of all this comes lots of frustration from the primary caregivers who are the glue that holds the system together. We are seeing many retire rather than deal with a lower standard of care, longer hours, a diminishing relationship with patients and lots of time on computers doing data entry. God bless the survivors but I am sure some are feeling that this isn’t what they signed up for. But take heart, we are also getting to see the huge employment boom and advantages of more bureaucrats in Washington. These genii are doing their level best to add to the confusion with an onslaught of new regulations.

An example of the absolute absurdity in the level and detail of the new regs is the expansion of new codes which will be demanded in the forthcoming ICD 10 Code Book.
The number of codes is increasing from 13,000 to an anticipated 68,000. And here are some of the examples that will now be tracked (source is an April 2015 report from the Frugal Nurse website):
1)      R46.1           Bizarre personal appearance
2)      W61.62XA  Struck by a duck
3)      Z63.1           Problems in relationships with in-laws
4)      W22.2XD    Walked into lamppost again
5)      W55.41XA   Bitten by a pig
6)      V97.33XD   Sucked into a jet engine
7)      Y92.250       Injured in an opera house
8)      Y93.D1        Injured when knitting or crocheting
9)      V95.42XA   Forced landing of a spacecraft injuring an occupant
10)  T71.231D     Asphyxiation due to being trapped in a discarded refrigerator, accidental

I am sure there is also one for when this last item is “on purpose” and there is probably an individual bureaucrat assigned to each of these codes.

All of this puts an additional reporting load on the providers and insurers in the system and ultimately costs the insurance payer more money. As with everything else the government seems to do, we are taking things to absurd levels. Perhaps we will soon have a reality TV show on Washington bureaucrats as they sit in their cubicles and toss around ideas for new regulations. I can only hope that there will soon be a new code for “bureaucrat falling out of chair while laughing at idiots that pay him or her to do this stuff”.

But not to worry, all of this money going into the pockets of pharmaceutical companies and others pretty much guarantees that we will see lots more advertising support for the kinds of brainless programs that will bring them an audience. The survival of “Divorced Housewives of LA” or some similar programs should be pretty much assured as long as all of us pay the bill. And the bureaucrats will trail along right behind to make sure we continue to build a system that defies understanding.

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