Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Health Care and the Hypochondriacal Dilemma

One time, a number of years ago, I was almost flat broke and had to take a job where I worked in a cubicle. I'd known about such things for years, of course, and always had a totally abhorrent picture of them in my mind, sort of a giant nursery school for adults caught in a futuristic 1984-like hell. But I needed money, and was temporarily disabled with a ruptured Achilles tendon (a story for another time), so I went to work in an office lined with cubicles.

As it turned out, my premonition was 100% accurate. Some authorities maintain that fully half the cubicle type offices in our country are environmentally unhealthy. They're kept too cold in the summer and too warm in the winter. The first thing I noticed was that my new place of employment was no exception. Everybody seemed to be sick. I hadn't had a cold for fifteen years, it seemed, but soon after getting into that environment I had one cold after another. (Eventually I had to quit because of chronic sinus trouble.) Another thing I noticed was that everybody seemed to be taking antibiotics all the time, as if it were as natural as having a morning coffee.
Of course the tab for the pharmaceuticals and the doctor's visits was picked up by the employer's insurance policy. (In this case it was the government, i.e. the taxpayer, i.e. YOU) Once one of these office bimbos saw another one getting something on the insurance "dole," they would have to have the same thing: special braces to ward off carpal tunnel syndrome, antibiotics, antihistamines, antidepressants, you name it.

I've also heard that 70% of the patients seen in an average family practice are there for psychosomatic maladies. We all know people who are running to doctors with what seems like unbelievably minor complaints. And all too many doctors are happy to hand out an aspirin or placebo and bill the system for whatever it will bear. So whether the country were to go to a "single payer system," or simply muddle things through like they are now, the question remains: what to do about hypochondriacs and freeloaders clogging the system?
It seems to me that a hefty co-payment would cut down on a lot of this nonsense. It may be the only answer.

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