Could we be looking at a two-tier healthcare system in the future?
Earlier this spring Kyle Winkfield and I were lucky enough to be invited to an ultra-high net worth wealth management conference in New York City. The topics they discussed were wide-ranging and diverse, from extreme personal defense, to the latest private equity investments. From credit protection, to advanced tax strategies. But the topic discussion that caught my attention the most was by Dr. Daniel Carlin. And go figure, it wasn’t even about financial planning or estate strategies (which I love) at least I didn’t think so at first.
How do you feel right now about the prospects of your healthcare, both now and into the future? Have your insurance premiums gone up double-digits per year for the last few years like mine have? I believe our healthcare system in facing tough times ahead, because whether anyone at this point likes it or not, we are headed for a universal healthcare system in this country. (Sure, President Obama’s healthcare bill could get repealed by a different president, I guess, but seriously let’s just get past that already.)
Our healthcare system is moving in a general direction of subsidizing healthcare for people who earn below a certain amount of money, by having other people pay extra in the form of increased insurance premiums. And whether someone is OK with that principle or not, it doesn’t do any good to ask, “Is this universal healthcare thing going to happen?”
The kinds of questions one should be asking would be things like, what does this mean for my future healthcare? What types of therapies are currently available and what’s going to be around in ten years? What does that mean for how long I’m going to need income in retirement? What should I be planning for? These questions and their answers were what we discussed with Dr. Carlin, and I thought the implications and possibilities were so amazing that I wanted to share them with you.
First, let’s talk about Dr. Carlin and where he fits into this discussion. Not only is Dr. Carlin a former U.S. naval officer, practicing medical doctor, and founder of a revolutionary new healthcare model, WorldClinic, he also has experienced our healthcare system from the other side of the desk—the patient side. And what he concluded was that he could not receive the type of care he wanted here in the United States. You see, Dr. Carlin had a bad back (like me) to the point where he walked with pain every day of his life. (Not like me … yet.)
When he consulted with the very best doctors and hospitals around the country, what he kept hearing was that his only option was to have a spinal fusion surgery. That was not a possibility for Dr. Dan being a former ER doc. He saw first-hand what kinds of pain and complications that spinal fusion patients experienced. So he said, “No way, I am not doing that. There’s got to be another option.”
$35,000 later and one continent away, he found his answer in the form of a new M6 artificial disc replacement (not approved by the FDA even though a prior version was approved in 2002) and his own stem cells. Yes, you read that right. His OWN stem cells.
I don’t know about you, but before that day, the only thing I really knew about stem cell therapy was that it was controversial, because it involved taking stem cells from one person and giving them to someone else. But that isn’t the case at all.
Dr. Carlin shared with us that we all have stem cells inside our own bodies, mostly in belly fat or at the bridge of your nose. And since they’re our own stem cells, they are already a match to our blood type, etc. So what are stem cells and what do they do? Think of them as the building blocks of your DNA.
They remember how the DNA in your entire body looked when you were at your peak physical condition, and they can still remember how to rebuild sections of your DNA chain, if needed. The stem cells just don’t know where in the body they need to go—Tadaa!—Stem Cell Therapy.
However, the FDA and “big pharma” (Dr. Carlin’s words not mine) have prevented research on stem cell therapy from moving forward in the United States. Why, you ask? Because, based on what I heard that day as well as the research I’ve done, developing effective stem cell therapies would not be in these drug company’s best interest. If you were in the healthcare business, and strictly from a business perspective, all else being equal, would you rather collect $100,000 for a procedure and continue to receive follow-up purchases from the patient? Or would you rather collect $35,000 for a procedure and never see that patient again? Therein lies the conundrum. The very institutions and companies that are charged with providing us healthcare are disincentivized to provide us true health solutions.
Dr. Dan shared that if you want to know about new medical studies and therapies being developed, then ask the veterinarians. That’s right. So the next time you take your little pooch for a checkup and you have a question about the latest therapies being developed, ask your vet! But seriously, this next story really astonished me as it did Dr. Carlin when he first learned about it.
A wealthy family had a Doberman pinscher, Duke, who was paralyzed from the waist down. So, he couldn’t use his back legs at all, he was incontinent, had to pull himself around by his front paws—a real mess. But, he was part of the family, and this family had the means to do something about it. So they enrolled Duke in a doggy-stem-cell trial where the vet extracted Duke’s own stem cells from his belly, and then re-injected them back into where his spinal cord was ruptured.
Dr. Dan said that when he saw the results and watched the videos of Duke’s recovery, his mouth was wide open the whole time. Three weeks after the injection, Duke was trying to stand up, after four years of not being able to use his back legs. He was wobbly, and his legs looked frail and crooked, but he was trying. Five weeks after the injection, he was standing on his own.
Eight weeks out Duke could walk—he could actually walk. It didn’t look pretty, but he could walk. After 12 weeks Duke was continent again, and he was walking like a regular dog. Twenty weeks after the injection, Duke could run. He was a happy and normal dog again.
After seeing other successful animal trials, Dr. Carlin decided to look at stem cell therapy for one of his own patients, Frank, who had a right knee that was torn up, as in no more cartilage in his knee. For that, they had to go overseas, because typically a knee replacement would be in order here, right? Well instead of the traditional total knee replacement, the attending physician simply scraped away the remnants of the old cartilage, cleaned up the joint, and injected Frank’s own stem cells into the knee joint. What were the results?
Six weeks after surgery, Frank was very light weight-bearing on his right leg. After 12 weeks, Frank was walking with no pain. The doctor decided to scope Frank’s knee and look at how it was progressing, because that is awfully quick to be walking with no pain. What the attending physician and Dr. Carlin saw on the pathology report was shocking. Frank now had the cartilage of a 16-year-old in his knee!
This incredible success, along with many others he read about, convinced Dr. Carlin (who is American board certified in emergency medicine, mind you) that he was better off paying money out of his own pocket and receiving care in another country, rather than accepting what was available in the States with his insurance. So that’s what he did. And as a result he now lives and walks pain free, and I can serve as witness to that. He stood during his whole presentation.
So what other therapies are being studied around the world that you maybe haven’t heard about? Well, I thought you would never ask! The one that really excited Kyle and me was auto-immune therapy with stem cells and chemotherapy. This therapy can get really technical and complicated so think about it like this. Remember how I compared stem cells to the building blocks of your DNA? This therapy is simply using the chemotherapy to attack only the defective strands of DNA throughout the body, and replace those strands with the proper building blocks. Think about that for a minute. That could mean the end to some pretty horrible, previously untreatable diseases. Conditions like ALS, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s.
If your mind is anywhere close to where mine was when I first heard about this, your mind might be blown. (Now at that time I was extrapolating further and conjecturing about how stem cells and nanobots could be used to reset someone’s biological age, but I digress.) You may be thinking at this point, “Jeremy, this all sounds great, so isn’t this a good thing?” Well, it is for some, and unfortunately not so much for others.
Let’s think about what I talked about at the opening of this article, universal healthcare and an emerging two-tier health system. The first tier will be the public system, paid for with medical insurance, and will consist of the traditional drugs and surgeries that we’re all familiar with.
The second tier will be the private system, and this is the system under which one would be able to access these life-changing therapies I just finished describing. However, no insurance accepted, straight cash only.
And now we come to it, how you can use your wealth to protect your health and the health of your loved ones. First we need to have an idea of how much money we’re talking about. The Employee Benefit Research Institute conducts annual studies on various retirement and financial topics, one of those being the cost of healthcare in retirement.
For a 65-year-old couple, they need $326,000 in today’s dollars to pay for their healthcare over the rest of their lives—and that doesn’t include any possible long term care. Based on his experience and expertise, Dr. Carlin projects that figure will balloon to over $2 Million by 2025.
We are in the dawn of a new age in healthcare. Unfortunately, whether or not one has access to the best care will depend on one’s financial means.