011 Discussing Healthcare: Polio is Back, Is there a better and cheaper way to provide healthcare? (part 2 of 2)


Does Polio still exist?

Surprisingly, yes it does.  However, the last case of naturally occurring polio in the United States was  in 1979 and polio was considered eradicated from the Americas in 1994.  It now only occurs in a handful of countries, but is endemic in only 3 countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Why is this important? Well, an article from the Wall Street Journal titled “Pakistan’s Polio Crisis Poses Wider Threat” details the very serious problem occurring in Pakistan that is creating a potential threat to the rest of the world. Amazingly, the threat reportedly stems from one of the worst days in our history as a nation, 9/11/01.  (Please read the article for more detail)

What is Polio?

  • Polio is a virus.  Unfortunately, in some cases it can cause paralysis and death.  But, for many there are no symptoms or flu-like symptoms at most.  Only 1/200 infections lead to irreversible paralysis.
  • Polio mostly affects children under 5 years old.
  • Some people who contract polio will have post-polio syndrome which leaves the individual with permanent deficits, such as weakness, fatigue, or breathing problems.
  • When polio was epidemic hospitals had iron lung wards as depicted above to treat patients who were paralyzed and could not breathe on their own.
  • Here is an interesting 3 minute video about the iron lung


Polio is spread easily from person to person and it can spread around the world if not kept in check. Just think of the 2011 movie Contagion which tells the story of how a deadly virus rapidly spreads around the world.  Although this movie is fictional, the idea of the movie is real and gives the gist of what can happen if a lethal infection such as polio is unleashed on the world.


The second half of the interview with Jeff Singer, MD is presented in this episode.  He continues to discuss how to decrease the cost of healthcare.  Again, he claims that healthcare expenses are high because of the 3rd-party payer system, where the physician and patient have little knowledge as to what healthcare costs and the 3rd-party (insurance company or Medicaid/Medicare) pays the bills.  He uses Milton Friedman’s four ways to spend money to illustrate how we waste money on healthcare and how to decrease healthcare costs.  (See the article “Friedman’s Four Ways” for an explanation of the four ways to spend money).


Dr. Singer has presented some very interesting ideas and possibilities for the future of healthcare.  You can hear more from Dr. Singer by listening to a recent interview on The Bob Zadek Show which airs on San Francisco radio, 910 KKSF.

Jeffrey Singer, MD

Jeffrey Singer, MD

If you would like to contact Dr. Singer you can find him on Facebook.

Dr. Singer’s Cato Institute profile has links to more written articles and video of his national interviews.

About the Author

I am Joshua Lewis, MD, the creator of Discussing Healthcare, LLC and a board certified Emergency Physician who currently practices in the Phoenix, Arizona area. I hope you will gain meaningful insight into our healthcare system through the information provided by Discussing Healthcare. Thank you for your interest and I encourage you to contribute by calling, emailing, or leaving comments on the website.

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