Of course, we have been warning about oligarchy, and related issues such as concentration of power, oligopoly in health care for a long time. Basically, we have been warning that health care is increasingly run by a small group of insiders, mostly professional managers/ executives, and their cronies, who often have multiple overlapping leadership positions (e.g., as we discussed recently, leadership of one health care organization while being member of the board of another), or may interchange positions through the revolving door. It appears that this pattern is merely part of a larger one involving US and even global society.
While warnings about the growing threat of oligarchy or plutocracy have mainly come from people (including your loyal Health Care Renewal bloggers) who might be regarded as out of the mainstream, that is changing.
We have a striking local example.
David Carlin is a former Majority Leader of the Rhode Island Senate. While he is a Democrat, he could hardly be called a flaming leftist. He just published an op-ed in the Providence Journal which opened,
I am not a leftist. Far from it. Not only have I become a conservative in my old age, but I find myself growing more conservative every month.
He then went on,
Nonetheless, I think those on the left are correct about one thing, at least. They are right when they warn us that the United States, where the top 1 percent of people own about 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, has a dangerous imbalance of wealth.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am far from agreeing with the leftist notion that the ideal society would be one in which wealth is equally distributed. This is absurd. Nonetheless, this great inequality of wealth is dangerous for America. For it is making the United States less and less a democracy (a form of government in which the people rule) and more and more an oligarchy (a form of government in which a small number of very rich people rule).
He did propose a specific remedy for the problem. However, he did warn of the consequences in dire terms.
in the United States we have a special problem. For we are and always have been philosophically democratic. We believe that government is legitimate to the degree — and only to the degree — that it is chosen by the people. When we conclude that in reality our government is controlled by the rich and super-rich, not the people, we will experience a great legitimacy crisis; our government will no longer feel legitimate to us, and thus it will not receive the deference that legitimate authority is entitled to. Lawlessness and disorder will follow.
That is pretty strong, and when people like Mr Carlin start making such strong warnings, things must be really bad.
In my humble opinion, there are already plenty of reasons to have doubts about whether the ostensible authorities in health care are legitimate. Just to mention some recent examples: we have discussed how the leaders of two major prestigious non-profit health care organizations (look here and here) and one major medical school (look here) were revealed to simultaneously be responsible for the governance of for-profit health care organizations, some of which had clear track records of ethical misadventures which cast doubt on the abilities of these leaders to uphold their organizations' missions. Two of the three leaders subsequently dropped their outside board memberships, but not their leadership positions, and their previous actions in those positions have not been revisited.
In health care, if we do not re-establish leadership which is accountable for putting the health of patients and the public ahead of self-interest, the deluge will not be far behind.