Here’s an excerpt from chapter 3 of my new book, Undoctored: Why Health Care Has Failed You and How You Can Become Smarter Than Your Doctor.
“Nothing Personal—-It’s Just Business”
That’s how math whiz Otto Berman, who figured out how to rig bets for the gangster Dutch Schultz, viewed the world in 1930s New York. If you had a cinder block tied to your ankles and found yourself at the bottom of the Hudson River, well, that’s just business. If you get saddled with bags of prescriptions and crippling medical debt, don’t get all weepy and snivel about it—-that’s just the business of health care.
If the answer to this unfairly stacked deal is to spend more money on health care, then it would be no different than trying to fix a crooked gambling game by placing larger bets. But that is what we are doing if we allow insiders in health care to continue expanding the status quo driven by self-interests.
Money in health care is like trying to wash something awful off your hands: No matter how much you wash, you just can’t seem to erase the filth. Whenever money and favors of corporate sponsorship are part of the equation, it inevitably influences the message, no matter how much the recipient tries to stay clean; it’s human nature. No person or organization that embraces the easy money of commercial interests is immune to this bias. The American Diabetes Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and American Heart Association may claim that they are unfazed by the millions of dollars flowing to them, a researcher may defend his $500,000 of shares in the company whose drug he is testing, or a medical center may claim that it uses a technology only because of its advantages and not because it owns some of the company, but that is not what the scientific data on bias argue, that is not what human nature dictates. Scrub all you want, but you cannot rinse it off; it’s everywhere, even under the fingernails. And it smells bad, too.
You have therefore been exposed to health advice heavily influenced by commercial interests for decades, leaving you wondering why you still have problems with high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, or type 2 diabetes. You have them, in large part, because it is profitable for you to have them. Like Dutch Schultz’s rigged numbers rackets, the health-care system is a game rigged in favor of the insiders, leaving you as the sucker at the gambling table. It’s time to fold and play an entirely different game, one in which the odds are stacked in your favor because the rules are open to you.
The worst news for a health-care system rigged for its own financial gain? Healthy people. And that is how you can opt out of this game: by not placing any bets and just being healthy.
I hope that, by now, you have been disavowed of the idea that the health-care system only has your best interests at heart, provides only unbiased scientific information, and works for your health. It doesn’t mean that the system is evil or out to screw you; it means that its goals are not aligned with yours, despite the public face it provides. You now understand why we must turn to other sources for unbiased, reliable health information—-yes, they are indeed out there, though often not as publicly visible or well-funded—and why, outside of injury, infection, and some other exceptional situations, you are healthier by opting for the Undoctored path.