Joe Biden has been bragging on the campaign trail in Florida about a free health “exam” for seniors. What kind of “exam” is this?
What’s being touted is free wellness exams and colonoscopies without a co-pay. But as health policy commentator John Goodman notes, this wellness exam is extremely perfunctory—it measures the patient’s height, weight, body mass, and blood pressure, and the doctor may listen to your heart through your clothes. In other words, this “exam” is just a waste of your time.
What about the free colonoscopy? Well, it does say something about today’s world that a national politician would campaign today by offering a free colonoscopy. You wouldn’t think the voters would find it something to look forward to. In the old days, national politicians promised a “chicken in every pot.”
Let’s also keep in mind a study we reported on last year. Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, it revealed that colonoscopies are dramatically overprescribed for the elderly. “Overuse is important for several reasons,” the study found. “Screening colonoscopy can have adverse effects, including hospitalization and death. Too frequent performance of the examination may shift the benefit to risk ratio by increasing complications without additional benefit.” Moreover, only 27 percent of all study patients with frequent exams had any symptoms that might have raised any suspicion of cancer.
One-third of patients over 80 received two colonoscopies within seven years, whereas Medicare guidelines say they should not be given more often than once every decade, so it’s also a waste of taxpayer money. In fact, even the US Preventative Services Task Force recommends no routine colon cancer screenings for those older than 75, and no screenings at all for those over 85. Complications for older patients include accidental perforation of the colon, bleeding, and complications from sedatives, any of which can lead to death.
At $1,000 per procedure, there is a significant economic incentive for doctors to continue performing colonoscopies as often as they can get away with it.
Compare this with the integrative approach toward preventive medicine, which focuses on the individual and tailors tests and treatments accordingly. It’s this holistic approach that has made CAM therapies so successful, particularly in the face of conventional medicine’s rampant failures.
As Gary Null has noted, the number of people who die each day because of conventional medical errors—physician mistakes, hospital-related illness, and reactions to FDA-approved medications—is the equivalent of six jumbo jets falling out of the sky. More Americans are dying each year at the hands of medicine than all American casualties in WWI and the Civil War combined.
So the next time a politician offers you a colonoscopy or an exam that is not really an exam—one that may or may not be appropriate for you but will make a lot of money for whoever gives it—stop and think, and make an informed decision instead of blindly feeding the healthcare money-making machine.
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