by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
People have a tendency to venerate doctors, and when they heroically save your life, this hero worship can be justified. Our long-time family doctor is another diagnostician extraordinaire, who also happens to be one of my best friends and hunting buddy. When he sewed up my son’s forehead on our dining room table, he too was vaulted into that hero category.
But something has happened to the medical profession and the healthcare industry — at 15% of the U.S. economy, it has become an industry complete with industry titans — and as the pandemic accelerated, healthcare’s credibility problem only worsened. …
… As though all these trends were not bad enough, the COVID-19 pandemic has undermined doctors’ credibility. Doctors can be found everywhere arguing about the merits of wearing a mask, social distancing, excessive handwashing, quarantine time, the efficacy of various treatments promoted by some and castigated by others, and the efficacy and risks of vaccines. Many doctors bemoan the fact that COVID is keeping people from their regular checkups and screenings. My dermatologist diagnosed seven melanoma skin cancers during the first month of the shutdown in 2020, while the number of patients she saw was about one half of her normal workload. She lamented that perhaps an equal number of melanomas went undetected during the same timeframe. People were suffering heart-attack symptoms but would not go see their doctors. Colonoscopies, mammograms, and many other cancer screenings went by the boards. While medical professionals, policymakers, and especially the media whipped up COVID fears, cases of depression and suicides increased dramatically, and now, schools are finding multiple psychological problems among returning schoolchildren.
Hospitals stopped scheduling elective procedures to make room for the onslaught of Covid patients, even though elective procedures have long been the cash cow of every hospital business model. Since this threatened their financial stability, the federal government came to the rescue with cash payments for each confirmed COVID patient treated. This created a perverse economic incentive to make every patient a COVID patient, regardless of their condition.