Last week we ran a guest post from MD, an…MD who exemplifies beautifully what we preach here at Control Your Cash: buy assets, sell liabilities, go into debt but only for economically viable reasons. (A humanities degree is not an economically viable reason.) Today he’s back, this time in epistolary form. His viewpoint is similar but not identical to ours, which is yet another reason why we’re running his posts. Now excuse us as we remove WebMD from our bookmarks:
Dear CYC principals,
I have to admit, writing the last guest post took far more time than it should have. I’m flattered you accepted the post, really. Although good writing does take a long time, I have another excuse, I promise. I haven’t written a full page of prose in years. Besides, my natural style is illegible point form, and no, I haven’t heard that joke about poor physician handwriting. Nor the one aboot being a passive Canadian.
I don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, so I can’t (and wouldn’t) read any of the comments about my previous article. I just don’t find either service to be useful. I like the approach you take to reader comments, too. Yes, I understand the irony, given that I’m writing anonymously. And yes, that was a pre-emptive strike. When the overwhelming urge to see pictures of my snotty-nosed nieces and nephews rears its bubbly head, I use my wife’s Facebook account. For most communication, I use e-mail or pick up the phone. That makes me old school, I know. And surprisingly productive.
I’m a medical rookie chomping at the bit, wading into a swamp of old doctors, new ideas, and an internet-savvy patient population.¹ Most intelligent forums on medical issues are policed by doctors with a Bostonian pedigree.² Few doctors write well enough to keep readers awake and it makes me feel good that since you’re still reading this, I’m unique. CYC seems to do a reasonable job of separating the wheat from the chaff. Continue to do that. The last thing this world needs is another terrible personal finance blog. Not that anyone is asking me to, but I won’t stop practicing medicine to write, it’s that enjoyable. Plus, I leveraged debt to finance my education and I’ll work doing what I trained to do. It’s silly to borrow for school unless you do.
The topics in medicine and personal finance that share common ground are legion. Here are two: Gastric Bypass Should Be Mandated for Every “Disabled” Medicaid Recipient ³, and There Should Be a Scale at the Airport Check-In Counter for You, Not Your Bags. I once casually suggested the former cost-cutting solution to my attending bariatric surgeon as a medical student and spent the next 4 hours retracting a 150-pound pannus. I was never really sure where on the patient’s body it originated. Are you also tired of paying for other people’s gluttony and sloth?
As rewarding as helping these patients is, preventable illnesses like obesity (and sloppy debt) are the product of ignorance and poor education, both of which I strive to change.
Let’s start with this comparison: Too many people swallow Dr. Mehmet Oz’s pills in the same way they swallow Suze Orman’s. You’ve interviewed her already, and Dr. Oz is a comparable menace to people’s health (and net worth). It’s a farce. Patients bring his pseudoscientific medical advice into the office all the time and ask questions about it. For example: “I sit on the couch all day eating pork rinds watching TV and Dr. Oz says to wash my face in my cat’s urine for its antioxidant properties, what do you think?” A cursory glance at his Wikipedia page is helpful, and more authoritative than most of the sources he uses to back up his claims.
I don’t know how to rank his broad skill set in order of aptitude, but I’ll give it a shot. Since I’ve never seen him operate, I owe him the professional courtesy of omitting “cardiothoracic surgeon” from my ranking. That he’s a good one, I have little doubt. It’s what he went to school for. At one of those floridly consanguineous ones, too.
In order, these are his remaining claims to fame: TV personality > American > Turk > author > source of quality medical advice. Why do people listen to this wizard? Probably for the same reason they listen to his Oracle at Elcaro Studios.⁴ Someone’s printing money in Chicago, and it’s not Al Capone.
Here’s my first piece of official medical advice for your blog: If your doctor dresses like an investment banker and is in cahoots with Oprah, find another doctor. When I see Dr. Oz on TV before I have a chance to change the channel, I probably react in an analogous fashion to when you’re confronted with the financial garbage submitted to your weekly Carnival of Wealth.
The issues with the medical system (both mine and the soon-to-be-mine) provide a great platform for repeating the same advice you give at every available opportunity at CYC: buy assets and sell liabilities. Those medical assets (among others) are your ideal body weight, your ideal blood pressure, and your age-specific preventative screening tests. It’s the application of such simple principles, compounded over time, that will make (and save) thousands. Billions on the national scale, literally.
Profit is an important motivator, and has been responsible for the transfer of vast amounts of wealth from the insured to the insurers (those assessing and pooling risk). As a general rule, those who bear risk are rewarded. This has made health insurance companies so profitable that the current elected government stepped in to cap their profits and disrupt free markets. All at the behest of the 99%, or the 47%, but who’s counting?
The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) attempts to correct a product of unbridled capitalism and greed: the unacceptable reality of lifelong coverage limits for an insured 3 year-old who develops leukemia. Until the ACA was passed into law, this was commonplace and legal. This is an instance of where you should stop complaining about The Man’s existence. Seriously. I’m sure your readers understand there is a role for governments, albeit small ones. Denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions, I can live with.
(Let me clarify: I don’t feel sorry for people who don’t buy adequate health insurance. The onus is on them to find coverage [and read the contract] before they need it, not after. Still, some unfortunate kids have parents who cover them adequately, only to find at age 12 that the leukemia treatments from 9 years earlier ate up the lifetime limit. Leukemia returns, and bankruptcy ensues. Call me a softie, but we can do better.)
Advise your readers that instead of throwing feces across the aisle like the chimps in Congress, they should understand what has actually been proposed by the ACA, and what has been implemented thus far. They’ll be glad they did. They may also begin to realize just how much the media warps the facts for political gain, on the off chance they’re not reading real journalism.
While we’re drawing comparisons, concepts like “herd immunity” apply to both medicine and finance, specifically to the realm of insurance. It almost sounds like a form of socialism, and yeah, those needles sometimes hurt. Your intelligent readers will be able to figure it out; the others will have to wait for a future guest post. That reminds me, if your readers haven’t done so already, they should have their children vaccinated.⁶ Yesterday.
¹ Do not bring the results of a Google search containing your physical complaints to your physician. You’re wasting everyone’s time. There’s a reason an M.D. takes 4 years to obtain. Listen to CYC and hire professionals. Good ones, avoiding wizards at all costs.
³ There are good studies from Scandinavia that indicate this could save billions of taxpayer dollars.
⁴ I’m so proud of you for putting that together.
⁵ Those colored tabs at the top of the page have the potential to save you thousands of dollars and hours of frustration. As a special bonus, see if you can find the best hospital in your area. I might be there.
⁶ See and adhere to the guidelines at the right side of the web page, under “For Everyone”.