THE PAULA GORDON SHOW
Sick

Evan Levine

 

     ... practicing cardiologist and internist in New York City. Dr. Levine is affiliated with the Montefiore Medical Center where he is a clinical assistant professor of medicine. He was a summa cum laude graduate of a program associated with the City College of New York and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He has offices in the Bronx and Yonkers. Dr. Levine is author of What Your Doctor Won’t (Or Can’t) Tell You: Doctors, hospitals, drugs, and insurance -- what you need to know to take charge of your own health care.

Edited Excerpts - Evan Levine
Conversation 1 RealAudio3:18
The health care system “stinks” in the United States, according to Dr. Evan Levine. He’s a practicing cardiologist who refuses to be silent any longer about what he considers the terrible condition of America’s biggest industry -- health care -- where Americans spend $1.5 trillion every year. Dr. Levine’s convinced that most of this enormous sum is going to the wrong people -- pharmaceutical industries, CEOs of big insurance companies and hospitals, duplicitous doctors and malpractice attorneys -- instead of taking care of patients, rewarding good doctors, or addressing the needs of more than 43,000,000 Americans who have no health insurance.

Everyone’s worried about health care in America, Dr. Levine believes. His “diagnosis” is that America’s health care system is broken, its sickness systemic. Why? Because people’s lives and health have been reduced to serving the interests of big business, he’s observed. It’s all topsy-turvy, he says, urging us to protect ourselves, to speak up, and to demand that politicians both pay attention and act.

Dr. Levine’s quick to applaud the great, hardworking doctors who, like him, are distraught. But he doesn’t leave much to the imagination, convinced that: prescription drugs cost too much and generics are used too seldom; too many tests are being ordered; a hospital administrator is considered “good” if he or she balances the books even if the hospital's services are terrible; CEOs of big insurance companies and hospitals are paid too much; unscrupulous doctors inflate their incomes with a wide variety of schemes and scams; malpractice attorneys take advantage of a bad situation, egged on by individuals who refuse to face the fact that we all die; nursing homes are places to be avoided; and politicians are part of the problem. And, oh, yes, there are those 43,000,000+ Americans with no health insurance.

Dr. Levine believes the pharmaceutical industry is the major culprit in driving up the cost of health care. He’s convinced that they charge too much for name-brand prescriptions and inappropriately reward doctors who prescribe their brand instead of another brand or generics. He objects that pharmaceutical “Reps” -- sales people -- are allowed to purchase lists of the prescriptions your doctor writes and use that information as part of their sales calls. He believes the pharmaceutical companies have completely infiltrated the medical profession -- from medical students and office staff to doctors who review and approve drugs while on the payroll of the drug’s manufacturer. And he’s outraged when generics -- which are guaranteed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be EXACTLY the same as prescription name brand drugs -- are represented incorrectly. Dr. Levine also questions the role of the pharmaceutical industry in the current Medicare prescription drug program, a program which he believes might be entirely paid for if generic drugs were used.

The prescription? Get our priorities straight. Take care of people, not big business. Why are we hearing this from a cardiologist when most of the medical establishment is mute? Because, he says, he’s a former kid from Brooklyn and he doesn’t like to get pushed around by bad people.


[This Program was recorded February 26, 2004, in Atlanta, Georgia, US.]

 

Conversation 1

Dr. Evan Levine tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell where the $1.5 TRILLION the United States spends annually on health care is going, while more than 43,000,000 people have no health care insurance. Big business is ripping off patients and good physicians, Dr. Levine declares.

 

Conversation 2

The pharmaceutical industries are a major culprit in driving up the cost of health care, Dr. Levine believes, then explains how they work, from their pricing to their use of “reps.” Dr. Levine says he learns nothing from these salespeople, relying instead on peer-reviewed articles, grand rounds, conventions, Continuing Medical Education and reputable colleagues. He describes how duplicitous physicians maximize their own profits.

 

Conversation 3

Dr. Levine outlines how to pick a physician. Most physicians are good, hardworking people, he says, then goes on to describe the minority who are exploiting the system and how they do it. Patients also bear some responsibility, he says, when we demand unnecessary tests or refuse to take generic medicine. Dr. Levine discusses generic drugs, reminding us that the FDA guarantees that generic drugs are EXACTLY the same as their name brand counterparts. If a doctor is acting unscrupulously, call the Office of Professional Misconduct in your city or state, he urges.

 

Conversation 4

Now a successful practicing cardiologist, Dr. Levine describes himself as a kid from Brooklyn who doesn’t like to get pushed around by bad people. He continues describing abuses within the medical system. He recommends university hospitals and second opinions. Find a physician who is board certified, accepts your insurance, went to a reputable medical school and has hospital admitting privileges, he advises. Make sure your doctor will visit you in the hospital if you get sick, he urges, leery of “hospitalists.” He considers the roles of hospitals and malpractice attorneys in today’s health care crisis.

  

Conversation 5

Dr. Levine explains why he is leery of nursing homes and their physicians. He reiterates his overall critique -- the health care system in the United States is a badly broken. He recommends staying out of nursing homes if you can, then suggests what to do if it’s unavoidable. Demented patients are at particular risk, he says, and gives examples. Don’t volunteer for research projects, he suggests. We all need to be “squeaky wheels” as well as more responsible patients, he says. ALL Americans need to be upset with today’s health care system, he insists, and explains his suspicions about the role of pharmaceutical companies in the new Medicare drug program. He describes himself as a “citizen-soldier” in a war between big business and good health care.

 

Conversation 6

The health care system is America biggest industry, Dr. Levine reminds us, convinced that our $1.5 trillion a year is going to the wrong people, especially with more than 43 million Americans uninsured. Today’s health care system in the United States “stinks,” he concludes.

 

Acknowledgement

Dr. Levine braved a February snow storm in Atlanta -- leaving an unnaturally balmy New York City -- in his eagerness to share his concerns with as broad an audience as possible. We’re grateful that he did.

It has been a great personal pleasure to get acquainted with Dr. Levine and his growing family, all of whom we admire.

 

Related Links:

Dr. Levine’s What Your Doctor Won’t (or Can’t) Tell You is published by G.P. Putnam’s sons.

When we asked a question of Dr. Richard Jackson about America's "health care system," he replied "your question implies that there is a system."

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