McDougallCare: The Civilized Sustainable Healthcare Act (CSHA)
The current disagreements over healthcare policies in the US are essentially founded on: 1) trying to induce people who do not need healthcare to pay the bills for those that do, and 2) requiring the wealthy to spend some of their "pocket change" for the healthcare of people with low incomes and few opportunities. This narrow-mindedness and societal greed must be stopped for the United States (US) to move forward as a world leader.
In the current political environment, the Republican Party plans to replace the Democratic Party's healthcare program, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), with The American Health Care Act (also known as "Trump/Ryan Care"). Healthcare reforms made over the past decade have been a significant step forward toward providing modern-day, consumer-oriented healthcare to millions more people, but at considerable costs. Note that even ObamaCare has increased the profits for physicians, hospitals, and medical-device and pharmaceutical companies by insuring tens of millions more Americans. Republicans pride themselves on their dedication to reduce excess spending, especially for what are termed "entitlements." Regardless of the orientation for more or less healthcare, for any system to be sustainable the costs from providers must be controlled, and money, certainly from taxation, must be raised. Many improvements will need to be made before meeting the expectations of both political parties (as well as independents).
I (Dr. McDougall) Want Universal Health Care
I base this recommendation on my observations as a medical professional caring for thousands of people over the past half-century. So far, all I have seen is Americans becoming fatter and sicker, even after a 24-fold increase in the financial costs to everyone (from 1970 to 2010).
As citizens, we require specific services—which cannot be provided by individuals or even huge companies—from our federal government. For example, neither IBM, Ford Motor Company, nor Google could build an operational military defense; thus we have the US Armed Forces and Intelligence Agencies. Delivering effective healthcare to Americans has failed in part because individual companies, like self-insured Whole Foods Market, Blue Cross/Blue Shield Insurance, and Mayo Clinic, will never be capable of organizing and cooperating in order to meet our citizens' healthcare needs.
We need a "medical military-like effort" similar to our Armed Forces in order to provide Americans relief from the epidemics of obesity and deadly illnesses affecting not just a few citizens, but everyone living in the US. Necessary medications, surgeries, and hospitalizations are basic rights that I believe should be available to all citizens, rich or poor, under universal healthcare. Just as important, people should be educated about and protected from the architects of our most common illnesses, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The government has a duty to protect us from not only foreign (such as terrorists) but also domestic threats, such as Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol, Big Food, Big Medicine (physicians), Big Pharma, and Big Hospitals.
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers universal healthcare as a situation where citizens can access health services without incurring financial hardship. In the US, one heart attack or a single case of breast cancer commonly causes financial bankruptcy for a family. Money saved over a lifetime for children's education and grandparents' retirement can be lost overnight. That's not fair. If the government is not going to protect us from industry's "Big" threats to our health, the catastrophic financial consequences of our poor health should be shared. They can't have it both ways.
McDougallCare's "Life Panel"
Previously proposed healthcare plans have included review panels intended to protect us from medications, testing, procedures, and hospitalizations deemed unnecessary and possibly harmful for the patients. A few critics during the 2009 debate about federal health care legislation worried that this oversight would result in "Death Panels," where a few bureaucrats could decide whether Americans—such as elderly parents, the terminally ill, or children with severe birth defects—would be "unworthy of medical care." This theoretical concern for such uncivilized behavior is minuscule compared to what Americans have suffered for more than a half century. More than a trillion dollars are spent annually in the US on medical care that has been proved (and recognized by experts sworn by oath to protect their patients) to do more harm than good.
I suggest a "Life Panel." Here are a few examples of how Life Panel could, in the year 2017, be protecting you and your family from receiving unnecessary, costly, debilitating, painful, and deadly tests and treatments. It would:
1) Stop the one million heart surgeries done annually (at a cost of $100 billion) in the US for chronic coronary heart disease. These procedures have been proved, beyond any doubt, to not save lives.
2) Stop the $330 billion annual expense for the care of type-2 diabetes. Aggressive treatment, in general, and specific medications have been proven to cause deaths, heart disease, hypoglycemia, and weight gain for patients, and without the promised benefits of better health.
3) Stop the billions of dollars wasted on cancer chemotherapy. A recent review found that 18 of the 36 cancer drugs commonly prescribed by your trusted physician showed no survival benefits.
4) Stop the billions of dollars spent annually on screening for breast, colon, and prostate cancer. None of these screening techniques have been shown to reduce overall mortality.
Simply providing honest information about the lack of effectiveness of commonly prescribed tests and treatments, such as these fours examples above, could save more than $1 trillion of the $3 trillion spent annually on our current health care. This Fort Knox-sized treasury—saved by only disallowing scientifically established "quack-like treatments"—could then be spent on making America well again.
McDougallCare Will Prevent and Cure Most Diseases
More than two-thirds of chronic diseases are caused by diet and lifestyle (smoking, alcohol). To be more specific, the rich Western Diet (loaded with meat, dairy, fish, oil, sugar, and other junk food) is the cause of sickness among most Americans. As important, stopping the cause (it's the food!) will reverse, slow, and/or cure chronic diseases in most cases. This change to a healthy starch-based diet will require education on a massive scale, beginning before pre-school and ending long after the education provided by medical and dietetic schools.
I often hear from people, including caring physicians, that "financially poor and less educated people do not care about themselves; they will never change their diets; why waste the money and effort on them?" That's simply not true. I have had a chance to be involved in providing the McDougall Program to the Sacramento California Food Bank and for a large Baptist Church in Oakland, California, both attended by very low-income people. In both cases the medical results of weight loss, lower cholesterol, relief of pain, etc. and the compliance with the new diet were similar to those of the usual attendees of the official McDougall Program—who are mostly from middle- to upper-income levels and have had advantages of at least a college education.
McDougallCare: The Winners and Losers
Providing universal healthcare coverage will most obviously help the disadvantaged who cannot afford medical insurance. However, good health for all Americans will benefit individuals, communities, companies, our military and every other US citizen. The very rich will have to pay more, but in some cases justice will be served by this apparent inequity, because the architects of our major disease are Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol, Big Food, Big Medicine (physicians), Big Pharma, and Big Hospitals. Individuals working for these "Big" companies that have been making everyone sick have accumulated great personal wealth. It is payback time.
In the US, providing care for sick people is the largest growing segment of our economy. Can you see the foolishness? In my town, as in yours, the biggest, newest buildings are general hospitals, cardiac and cancer centers; pharmacies occupy every shopping mall; and kidney dialysis centers are thriving. With McDougallCare, it is my hope that more than half of these buildings will eventually become warehouses storing no-longer-needed drugs, colonoscopes, mammography machines, robotic prostate surgical contraptions, and heart-lung heart bypass equipment.