The Meharry-Vanderbilt Student Alliance (MVSA) hosted an education event with Malcolm Getz, Ph.D. on September 15, 2011 at the MVA office. Dr. Getz is Associate Professor of Economics with Vanderbilt University and spoke on his latest book Better Health for Less Money: A Primer on Healthcare Reform. The talk sparked numerous questions as Getz outlined some of the contributors to the high cost of health care. He cited various examples of wasteful spending. The United States spends three times more on healthcare administration than other countries but outcomes do not reflect this additional spending. “The United States today ranks 38th among United Nations member countries in infant mortality.” Dr. Getz went on to say, “We are a third world nation in terms of infant mortality rates”.
Other examples of excess and gaps were discussed. Getz stated that 34% of U.S. births are accomplished through cesarean sections. “Spending more, making us less healthy” said Getz. Another example of excess relates to installing stents in potential heart patients. “We are installing a million stents per year; about 15% of them are installed in people with heart attacks. The other 85% are installed in people who have not had a heart attack, for whom it does no medical good and 4% of these patients die as a consequence of the medical procedure.”
The pharmaceutical industry was also a big topic. Drug trials, physician kickbacks and off-label use of drugs are a few of the examples cited. “Drug companies have paid opinion leaders. They pay physicians to give conference talks to promote off-label uses of their medications”, said Getz.
There was also significant evidence presented that outlined flaws in American health insurance. “Not having a full life view of medicine (of taking the dollars we are willing to spend on healthcare and using them over the full life cycle to maximize our health) is cruel.” Getz went on to say, “there are a lot of people who simply do not have routine access to primary care. As a consequence, their medical expenses over their lifetime are much higher, and their quality of life is lower.”
Dr. Getz’s presentation fueled a great question and answer period at the end. Students participated and were eager to cite their own examples of waste in the healthcare system. This was the first MVSA educational event of the 2011-2012 academic year and MVSA plans to sponsor more events throughout the year. Stay tuned to this website and our twitter and facebook pages for details.