To avoid a Great Depression-scale financial disaster, the U.S. is facing a financial emergency, a bail-out that might require a one-time cost of over $2000 for every man, woman, and child in America. But there is another crisis costing us that amount year-after-year, and it could also bring down the American economy: medical care costs.
While the rest of the developed world spends about US$4000 per year per person on health care, including insurance and out-of-pocket real costs, the U.S. spends over $6000 per year per person. That extra $2000-plus per year is not getting us better health care. Medical care in Japan or Germany or Canada is just as good and often better for the average worker.
The uncontrolled cost of U.S. health care is driving more companies to drop health insurance. This is becoming a threat to the economy and is driving down our standard of living. From the elderly who must choose between prescription drugs and food, to the young worker who has no company health plan and can’t afford to send his family members to the doctor when they are sick, this $2000-plus a year extra cost is like a Federal bail-out crisis that repeats each and every year!
There are multiple causes for the high cost of medical care in the United States, including lack of regulations and a planned shortage of medical personnel. But the one big add-on to the cost of medicine in America is our medical ignorance. Americans do not learn how their body works in school. Compared to other developed countries, the average patient in America is science stupid.
In Germany, citizens who feel ill can directly refer themselves to a specialist! Each citizen has received enough education about their anatomy and physiology in public school that they do not need a general practitioner to refer them to a specialist. That contrasts dramatically with American patients who have never studied their basic anatomy with any depth. U.S. physicians simply don’t talk in depth with most patients because most patients don’t know what the liver does, or how the kidney might get an infection. U.S. physicians do not have the time to make up for that lack of knowledge that should have been learned in school.
Why are the vast majority of Americans ignorant about their own “owner’s manual”? Human anatomy has been pulled from the public school curriculum at many schools. In many colleges, biology teachers are no longer trained in it. While biology teachers at Pittsburg State, Fort Hays State, and Emporia State University, as well as many smaller colleges, must take Human Anatomy and Physiology and Lab, biology teachers at the University of Kansas and Kansas State do not. And you can’t teach what you don’t know.
Why is this medical knowledge base not required? Both the National Science Education Standards and now the Kansas Science Education Standards have eliminated full coverage of this human biology from their standards, thanks to the influence of educationists who want to reduce science taught to our students even more. Even the education branch of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest group of scientists, has hoodwinked the science community into the wrong-headed goal of “teaching less science, not more.”
Our lack of basic knowledge about our bodies has not only directly driven up the cost of health care, but also resulted in unscientific jury decisions and much higher costs for malpractice insurance.
Every future American student needs substantially more human anatomy and physiology education, in solid blocks during elementary and middle school, and a full year combined with coverage of infectious disease agents in high school, to barely meet our needs and match the curricula overseas. Without it, the U.S. will continue to lose over $2000 per person per year, an amount equivalent to the debated one-time Federal bail-out, each and every year.
John Richard Schrock trains biology teachers and lives in Emporia, KS.