A Brief History of Healthcare Inflation

Modern Medicine, i.e. the Western, allopathic medicine that was founded on the germ theory of disease and took shape in the period of 1890-1925. It seemed to be the means for corporate interests to get control of healthcare, on the basis of a simplification that reduced it to just that reductionist framework of discrete diseases caused by some external agent – one problem one solution. There was the enthusiasm of the Industrial Age and its physicalist and mechanistic thinking.

For doctors (through the AMA) it was the perfect means of rationalizing their services and raising their incomes in the process of creating what amounts to a monopoly by raising allopathic medicine to the level of being just medicine and everyting else quackery. In the process, they kept women, minorities and poor people out of the profession and discredited any other healing modalities except allopathy. It was also a deal with the devil in the form of the pharmaceutical industry.

The mysterious business of health and healing was effectively reduced to the treatment of one disease at a time. This over-simplification allowed claims of effectiveness that seemed to warrant the monopoly of allopathic medicine that arose more so in the US than in other parts of the world. For example, I grew up in Europe, making no distinction between a homeopath and an allopath. To me, homeopathy was just better at some things than at others, and it was an extra skill over and above a regular MD. The irony is that old man Rockefeller was a firm believer in homeopathy, but his charity helped create the allopathic monopoly of the AMA. If you care for the details read the book Rockefeller Medicine Men: Medicine and Capitalism in America.

The Commissary on the Plantation

Since the 1970’s however, healthcare inflation has stymied income growth and the working class has handed over any pay increases to the ever hungry healthcare system. Doctors have slowly become just the signature needed for the patients to get their drugs, for, in pharmageddon, everything is reduced to pills and procedures. One of the best analytical insights of how this works is Dave Chase’s book CEO’s Guide to Restoring the American Dream: How to deliver world class healthcare to your employees at half the cost. The for-profit medical system as a whole has become like the commissary on the plantation.

There is much talk about healthcare reform, most of it dealing with the cost of our healthcare system and no-one raises the question if healthcare even works at all. However, for many decades, more perceptive doctors have complained that they are caught up in a treadmill in which health is an accident, for the economic drivers are the treatment of disease and the fee for service model. A brilliant article from some VA doctors explores the issue in a powerful way. In other words, what we have created is not working for doctors.

The healthcare system we have created does not work for patients either, although most don’t even realize it yet. But from a time when indeed the major medical problems were infectious diseases, coinciding with the germ theory of disease on which the medical monopoly was built, today premature deaths are overwhelmingly from the horrid diet we have (the proverbial Standard American Diet or SAD), courtesy of the progressive sacrifice of nutrition to convenience, in the form of fast food, and processed or even ultra-processed foods.

The result is that doctors end up in these situations of: “You’ll have to take this medicine for the rest of your life.” (translation: I don’t have a clue what is causing this, or what to do about it, but we can somewhat control it.) Doctors have only a hammer and everything looks like a nail – except everything is not a nail, but the medical education system has never educated doctors about health and wholeness, about nutrition, prevention, lifestyle, etc. This is becoming very evident from the doctors who get certified in Lifestyle Medicine. One doctor after the other feels like they are being let out of jail, and instead of becoming legal drug pushers, they can finally help their patients to actually heal and get well, as most of these diet-related illnesses (almost all the chronic illnesses people die from today, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, RA, MS and many others), can be reversed with a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet (#WFPB). Which is NOT to say medicine may not have a place here. It does, but it becomes more of a supportive role once you realize that the first thing to do is all about putting your body in a position to heal itself. It is about turning off the faucet that is causing the flood in the first place, before you start mopping the floor.

In other words, the healthcare system has become the commissary, ensuring that the plantation workforce leaves to the owners everything they ever thought they could call their own. During our working years we get patched up with pills and procedures, so we can return to work as quickly as possible, however, disease processes continue to ravage our bodies, and the big bills come in retirement when we can least afford it. Gore Vidal was right – the USA remain a plantation economy.

Paradigm Change

With the mechanistic view of medicine of the Industrial Age, the primacy of matter was implicitly accepted, as if matter could be the cause of anything, and specifically as if the mind could be an epiphenomenon of matter. I pointed out earlier how the germ theory of disease was the perfect fit for this model, it was all about learning to identify the specific disease agent from the symptoms and then to select the right ammunition, which the pharmaceutical and medical device industries were happy to provide.

Hippocrates famously said let food be thy medicine (regardless if that’s historically accurate or not, it’s the thought that counts). There was a concept of being healthy as a primary concern, along with the idea that nutrition was an important factor in health and healing, but in the Industrial Age, we started in the middle and used a reductionist paradigm to target disease symptoms, assuming that the absence of recognizable disease symptoms equals health. Disease meant there was a single, identifiable cause of disease, and with correct targeting and the right ammo, the disease agent could be defeated and presumably health restored. Meanwhile, our society was becoming increasingly wrapped up in the speed of machines and the food industry became hopelessly successful in sacrificing nutrition for convenience, and making money at it.

There is no better teacher than Dr. T. Colin Campbell in The China Study and Whole, to teach how originally nutrition was a similar adventure in the discovery of single agents of nutritional lack, and the attempt to supply them. What he makes abundantly clear and easy to understand is how the reductionist framework of investigating single nutrients and their effects, without controlling for diet, must produce the endless chain of contradictory health advice that we are all used to.

Campbell’s work and much since then demonstrated that the secret is in the whole food, for nutrients are absorbed better in context than in isolation. His work is a Copernican revolution and the nutritional and medical establishment has mounted lots of opposition, but the results speak for themselves and are not going away. The concept of the old nutrition was that it did not matter what you ate, you could supply the difference from a supplement. I described the ludicrous results of that course of events in the story of white rice versus brown rice. In the reductionist framework, once it was discovered that beriberi was caused by a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine), the first thought of our industrial mindset was to sell you a B1 supplement. But then it turns out white rice has a high glycemic index and is one of the key factors in today’s diabetes epidemic, not to mention brown rice reduces the risk of colon cancer by 17%. In short, it would have been better to simply go back to eating brown rice in the first place and that is the essence of Campbell’s work.

In short, we are now returning, if ever so slowly, to a holistic understanding of nutrition. And this holistic, i.e. Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition is in the process of becoming a new factor in an increasing number of treatment plans. Optimal human nutrition gives your body the optimal chance to repair itself. Medical interventions will be much reduced as increased numbers of physicians learn to work with the new model. However, our whole healthcare model will have to change, but that’s a topic for another day.

The Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet and Lifestyle Medicine are becoming the unified theory of modern, chronic illnesses, as Dr. Dean Ornish likes to call it. It is the first thing to address when you want to prevent or reverse these diseases of affluence. In Medicine, to arrive at a truly holistic view, it will be necessary to abandon the Newtonian, physicalist model of human nature and the reductionist life-sciences research framework and realize that the cause of anything is always in the mind, and that the body is only the effect. Quantum physicist Amit Goswami makes this point eloquently in his book The Quantum Doctor. For those who feel the need to delve into the metaphysics more, there is Bernardo Kastrup’s book The Idea of the World. It all boils down to the idea that consciousness (individual awareness or awareness of individuality) selects the experienced “reality” – our ‘life’ – from the quantum field.

The cause is always in the mind by reason of ontological necessity. To put it differently: the body is in the mind, not the mind in the body (the reincarnation paradigm), or even the mind is a (physicalist) epiphenomenon of the brain (body). The important issue in the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet is not the tool itself – the diet and the nutritional research on which it rests, but the fact that it empowers the patient to take responsibility of their own health. This is always the first step in a healing process.

What is known as ‘holistic medicine’ is not holistic medicine, because it rests on a putative equivalency of mind, body and spirit, which makes no sense and cannot be a basis of any sensible healing process. Healer and patient are operating in the fog. Besides the books I just mentioned, any non-dualistic teaching, such as Advaita Vedanta, or A Course in Miracles, imply a similar understanding. Cindy Lora-Renard’s book A Course on Health and Healing is a powerful primer on healing from the standpoint of A Course in Miracles, which thoroughly honors this principle. The upshot is that the decision to heal comes first and the mind will guide the modality of healing. Evidently, the whole foods plant-based diet is a very likely option, since effectively almost all prognoses improve with it.

Spiraling Medical Inflation.

The success of the AMA could be viewed as follows:

The “average” person spent seven to eight times more on physician and dentist services in 1977 than in 1950, but he or she spent twelve times more on hospital care and forty-nine times more on nursing home care. With the passage of Medicare and Medicaid, the power of physicians shrank relative to the increasing economic and political power of the capital intensive medical sector. This sector has now surpassed the medical profession as the dominant political force in medical care, mainly because of the shared interests of three important groups.

Richard E. Brown, Rockefeller Medicine Men: Medicine and Capitalism in America.

Medical costs are out of control primarily because doctors are bringing a knife to a gun fight. They are standing around like the proverbial blind men feeling the elephant and each comes up with a diagnosis based on their own form of professional blindness and that is how people end up with 10 or 12 medications. This is the direct result of the reductionist framework, for doctors treat conditions not patients, and that multiplication process is extremely profitable for doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. At the ludicrous extreme, there is the outright invention of diseases by the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Seamus O’Mahony (see below) hilariously speaks of the researchers who play: “My disease is better than your disease.”

The big change with Lifestyle Medicine is that is now clear that it all starts with diet in regard to the chronic diseases that consume anywhere from 75 to 90% of our healthcare spending. The reductionist framework multiplied the perceived needs for supplements and the nonsense of the RDA. Except you’d spend yourself silly on supplements if you go that route. Whole nutrition is the answer, because nutrients are better absorbed in the matrix of natural food. Likewise, there are endlessly more medical treatments if you focus on disease symptoms and not health. The elephant in the room IS the diet and a couple of other lifestyle factors. As this becomes more universally known and understood, a whole new medical paradigm will arise, in which truly Lifestyle Medicine will be 80% of primary care and medical interventions will be greatly reduced and only brought to bear very occasionally, in a support role.

Along with this change, all other credible healing modalities will increasingly play a role on a level playing field, and allopathic medicine will lose its monopoly increasingly for it is of very limited validity. Trauma medicine and infectious disease treatment are its mainstays, and it is losing the battle in infectious disease treatment due to antibiotic resistance, and the first line of defense will have to be people’s immune systems. Yet another reason the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet will move into center stage. If you want to hear it all from a doctor, Seamus O’Mahony’s book The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine is a must read. Philosopher Ivan Illich saw it all coming in his classic book Medical Nemesis: the expropriation of health, for that was exactly the deal with the devil that we made by giving a monopoly on truth to the very limited specialty of allopathic medicine.

One of the many side benefits of changing to a holistic, mind centered paradigm will be that suddenly the placebo effect is easily explained. As Goswami puts it, we are in a universe of downward causation. The Western medical model with its physicalist metaphysics and its reductionist model was a temporary aberration, driven by the unfounded optimism of the Industrial Age. It is time to get back to our roots, holism, oneness, wholeness, and health.

Conclusion

It all boils down to the fact that the ignorance of nutrition has led to out of control medical spending, and spiraling medical inflation that has eaten up the wealth of the nation, with deteriorating health outcomes. Tḧird world healthcare at premium first world prices is the rule, not the exception. The bad health outcomes are the necessary consequence, simply because physicians try to use nails when screws are called for, and they can’t seem to notice. The growing numbers who are adopting the Lifestyle Medicine model are feeling newly freed up to truly practice a healing profession. Models for reimbursement are being developed furiously and the more that happens, the more Lifestyle Medicine and the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet will enter the main stream.

People cannot believe their eyes and ears every time serious heart patients have miraculous recoveries (Dr. Esselstyn alone is up over 1000 success stories and will say any time that cardiovascular disease is a paper tiger that has no reason to exist), diabetics “lose” their diabetes usually within 3 weeks to 3 months and so on, and in many cases people get off a handful of pills within a time span of usually three to six months. With the paradigm shift towards wholeness, the uncontrollable inflation of the reductionist biosciences model will collapse in on itself and we can have world class healthcare for a quarter of the cost.

1 thought on “A Brief History of Healthcare Inflation”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.