According to a study by Brown University based on reports by the Government Accountability Office, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, doctors are increasingly suggesting expensive treatment based on their personal search for profit. This, much like how hospitals and pharmacies are exploiting the 304b program for profit, is costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Medical doctors have effectively doubled (and in regard to IMRT more than tripled) how many self-referrals they were writing between 2004 and 2010. As a percent of total referrals, these self-referrals have risen from 10% to 40% in regard to IMRT (self-referrals increased 350% while normal referrals decreased by 5%). The percent of self-referrals increased in every measured category without exception. In every category except IMRTs, total referrals also increased by at least several hundred thousand.
Increasingly, the medical industry has prioritized profits over patient wellbeing. Treatment is increasingly about squeezing insurance deductibles out of people and less about trying to preserve their quality of life. When we compare the healthcare situation in the United States to Germany’s or France’s healthcare systems, it becomes painfully clear that these changes are truly most pronounced in the United States.
The authors of the study suggest closing the loopholes allowing doctors to self-refer. But, perhaps we may need to rethink how profit oriented we want our healthcare industry to be, in addition to closing specific loopholes permitting self-referring. A patient is a person in need, and not simply a means of generating currency through government subsidies or insurance programs.