Among the many shortcomings of our broken health care system, lack of coverage is a glaring moral failure, but with enough political will, it is solvable. (We'll see whether Obama's universal mandate survives legal challenges or a congressional rollback.) Undertreatment's flip side, overtreatment, is more insidious. It's a built-in feature of fee-for-service reimbursement, overspecialization, regional saturation, profiteering corporations and fear of lawsuits. And it's one of the main factors driving the medical industry's out-of-control costs.
A new book by UNC professor Nortin Hadler, Rethinking Aging: Growing Old and Living Well in an Overtreated Society, shows the ways that the elderly in particular are exposed to "egregious marketing, disease mongering, medicalization and overtreatment." Hadler is a rheumatologist and professor of medicine who has spent the last half-decade writing books for a general audience, including Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America and The Last Well Person: How to Stay Well Despite the Health-Care System. His goal is to arm readers with knowledge that will help them navigate our for-profit health system in a way that maximizes profit to their own health.
As a speaker, Hadler is dynamic, colorful and forceful, quick to overturn preconceptions and tip sacred cows. He brings an unusually wide perspective, having been a visiting professor in England, France, Israel and Japan. Those experiences allowed him to compare various national health care models, from the level of policy to the cultural norms of doctor-patient relationships. He's also actively engaged in U.S. policy. Delivered with a mix of gravitas and bravado, his presentation brings to mind a war correspondent with news from the front. The free discussion starts at 7 p.m. —Marc Maximov