Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Coming Epidemic, Part IV

In Part I in 2006, I explained how lack of funding for preventative care, and a pool of uninsured that got just enough care to keep them from dying but not enough care to cure them, virtually guarantees the mutation of a virulent and deadly disease that will go pandemic and kill millions of Americans at some point in the next 20 years.

In Part II in 2007, I talked about why various incarnations of RomneyHillaryMassCare would not stop the race towards more virulent and deadly superbugs with no effective treatment.

In Part III in 2008, I talked about antibiotic-resistant TB, and how lack of universal healthcare was breeding more and more deadly versions of TB. Antibiotic-resistant TB is now an epidemic in this nation's ghettos and prisons, and all it needs is one mutation for virulence before it starts affecting all of us, insured and uninsured alike. I speculated that this was but one of the many bugs that our lack of universal healthcare was allowing to percolate under the scenes to mutate into superbugs that would strike down millions of Americans at some point in the next 20 years.

So now it is 2009, and time for our next update to The Coming Epidemic. Where are we today?

Well, on the healthcare front HR3200 sets up a variant of RomneyHillaryMassCare. It will be better than the current system, because it will reduce the size of that pool of unhealthy people significantly (if Massachusetts is the correct model, only 3% of the population will be locked out of the healthcare system at that point, most of them being folks here illegally). But 3% of the U.S. population is still 9 million people -- a significant pool of unhealthy people for disease organisms to burble around and mutate in. And the problem is that we do not entirely deprive them of healthcare -- we will give them just enough treatment to keep them alive (and allow the disease organisms to mutate in response to our treatments), but not enough follow-on treatments to actually kill the organisms and prevent the mutated organisms from spreading. And another 15% of the U.S. population is reliant upon Medicaid. Medicaid disbursements have been reduced so much in so many states in response to the current economic depression that in many states, what Medicaid recipients get is "ghetto care", little better than what the totally uninsured get. Once again, it keeps them alive long enough for the disease organisms to mutate, but doesn't give them sufficient care to kill all the mutated disease organisms and keep them from spreading.

As I've repeatedly pointed out, lack of medical care is not a pandemic generator in 3rd world countries because any organism which mutates for deadliness dies out before it can spread to the rest of the population, or can be easily treated with existing treatments because without any healthcare at all, organisms don't mutate for resistance to antibiotic and anti-viral drugs. But we're "civilized" -- we give our poor just enough health care to survive, but not enough to cure them. So now we hear that H1N1 is going to affect 2 BILLION of the world's population over the next couple of years. And right now, there is neither an effective vaccine nor a really effective treatment, indeed, even at the current level of infection countries' health systems are being strained diagnosing and treating H1N1.

I'm not saying that H1N1 is "it", any more than antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis is "it". I'm saying that the trend line towards my prediction of three years ago -- that within twenty years we would have a world-wide epidemic that would kill a significant percentage of the world's population, including millions of Americans -- is looking far more prescient than I could have imagined three years ago, when I thought I was just slinging a random prediction out onto a blog. And pandemics don't care how much money is in your wallet or how much health insurance you have. They're equal opportunity killers. So the anti-universal-healthcare nimnuts are putting their own lives at risk. But they care more about their precious ideological purity than about reality.

-- Badtux the Healthcare Penguin


  1. Let's just wait and watch the ERs collapse under the weight of flu cases and the "worried well" this fall. Our ERs already operate at capacity. Even in the best-case scenario for swine flu, the ERs are going to be overwhelmed.

    I'd like to see both of us be wrong. But the odds of that are slim, indeed.

    Your healthcare blogging has been wonderful. It ought to be required reading for our congresscritters.

  2. What is frustrating to me is that I've been blogging about this problem since 2006 and we're still no closer to a solution now than we were then, despite the Democrats controlling both halves of Congress and the Presidency. It is discouraging, to say the least.

    - Badtux the Healthcare Penguin

  3. Maybe extinction IS the plan.

    There are too many of the bipaedal malignant carcinomas on the planet already, metastasising all the fish, topsoil, hydrocarbons, fresh water, breatheable oxygen... Sooner than later, there won't be enough left for the uber-rich.

    Killing off 5 billion of us would leave enough of a slave population to serve the 1 million ruling classassins. Seen through that prism, every social genocidal thing that's happened during the past nine years makes perfect sense.

  4. I'm going to be Typhoid Cookie on this post and spread it around to as many peeps as I can.


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