The Financial Interests of Doctors

Doctors are people, too. Sometimes we tend to forget that. Especially with the entertainment industry’s nonstop portrayal of physicians as being healers above financial interests. But this is America and in America the utter lack of support for any kind of socialized delivery of health care opens the floodgates to opportunities for doctors to line their pockets in a variety of ways. Not that totally socialized health care is without disadvantages, of course, but then again I wouldn’t know. I live in the only developed country left in the world that fights tooth and nail against governmental obligations to heal its citizens. We have no problems with the government calling in our obligation to die for them, but heaven forbid they take any responsibility for saving our lives.

But back to the topic at hand. Financial interests of doctors carry a higher price tag than financial interests of many other professionals. Doctors have to be able to buy houses and cars they can’t afford just like the rest of us, larger and smaller television screens, and clothing that features the name of somebody who probably doesn’t even actually design clothes any more. We all know doctors are expensive and it’s a well paying job, but just like anyone else, physicians are likely to spend like they live in a higher economic sphere than they actually do. So the opportunities to line their pockets are sometimes very difficult to resist, especially when those opportunities don’t seem to be such ethical see-saws.

For instance, have you ever been handed a form to fill out in a doctor’s office and they give you a pen-sometimes shaped like a hypodermic needle-advertising a pharmaceutical company’s drug? Maybe a better question would be have you ever been handed a pen in a doctor’s office that wasn’t advertising some medication?

Drug companies are in fierce competition with each other. It’s a cutthroat world out there among those aching to sell you their latest quick fix for the newest-named disease. And the biggest target of those advertising dollars isn’t the consumer, but rather the doctor who will be writing out those prescriptions. After first diagnosing that you actually need this pill. Most of the time this results in little things like the pens or mugs or maybe even supplying the doctor’s office with munchies.

On the other hand, some doctors have been to the Super Bowl or World Series with tickets bought and paid for by the drug companies. Many doctors go on all-expense-paid weekends at fabulous resorts where they attend seminars to “learn” about the new drug. It’s even possible that your physician who wrote out that prescription for you this week was actually paid to take part in a study on marketing that drug. Regardless if what disguise they use, these doctors are accepting gifts from the drug companies for prescribing to you a certain medication, above all others.

Why should this matter to you? How does it actually affect you if your doctor went to the Super Bowl last year? Why should you care about financial interests of doctors if you still are getting the treatment you need? Well, perhaps that drug you’re taking isn’t necessarily the best one on the market. Or maybe it’s not the most inexpensive one available. You may be paying more for medication than you need to simply because your doctor was persuaded by gifts and good times.

Has a doctor ever suggested that you need to see a specialist? Maybe get an MRI or some kind of special high-tech procedure? It might really be that you need it in order for the doctor to genuinely give you a proper diagnosis. Or, it might very well be that your doctor has some kind of financial interest in that lab or facility. And if he doesn’t, he may very well have a brother-in-law or a college buddy who does.

Doctors get referrals for sending you to specialists like this. If you go to get an MRI, your doctor might just be pocketing hundreds if not thousands of bucks. And you probably aren’t going to be the only one he refers this week. Running the health care business like this can’t help but result in thousands, maybe millions, of people each year who undergo superfluous tests and procedures that results in your doctor being able to afford a vacation home or fancy little sports car. Maybe your health isn’t actually going to be jeopardized by undergoing these procedures, but your bank account will.

Do you ever wonder why you were admitted to one hospital instead of another? Maybe you live five miles from a hospital, but your doctor placed you in the one on the other side of town. Could be because it’s a much better hospital. Could be because your doctor knows that hospital has the best staff and best equipment in town. Or maybe he knows it has the best hospital food.

Or maybe it’s because that hospital gives your doctor extra little perks. Maybe the reason you are going to Hospital A is because Hospital B doesn’t handle your doctor’s billing even though Hospital B is actually far better equipped to handle your particular ailment.

And finally there’s the good old standby that you get what you pay for. And doctors get paid for what you pay for. Whether you actually need it or not. The simple fact is that the more procedures you have to undergo, the more money the doctor stands to make. Sometimes doctors have trouble diagnosing exactly what’s wrong with you. If your symptoms don’t match a certain profile, they can’t figure out what the problem is. So off you go on a magical mystery tour of tests and procedures so the doctor can supposedly nail down your problem through the process of elimination.

The only problem is that many times this process is drawn out far longer than it need be and includes little extras that your doctor knows isn’t going to narrow anything down at all. It may not necessarily involve a big time, big money thing like endoscopy. It could just be those nagging x-rays or blood tests that take up time and smaller chunks of money per procedure. If you keep coming in for more x-rays and more blood tests and this kind of test and that kind of test, your doctor is pocketing money through volume. And you are losing more than blood.

It’s not fair to accuse all doctors of such underhanded practices, of course, but the number of doctors engaging in them is probably far more than you might expect and no doubt far more than have been busted for it. And just in case you know for a fact that your doctor is as an honest as the day is longâÂ?¦well, I’ve got nifty bridge in Brooklyn that I’m looking to unload for a song.

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