Will Chicago emerge as a new hub for Serious Medicine? Let's hope so. As argued here many times, Serious Medicine is a win-win-win-win. That is, a win for patients, obviously. But also, a win for the healthcare sector, because we need economic sectors that are expanding. In addition, Serious Medicine is a win for technological spinoffs, and thus a win for the overall economy.
But of course, somebody has to start. As we all know, the distinct idea of Serious Medicine has been submerged in the overall soup of "healthcare reform," or, if one prefers, "Obamacare."
Meet Gery Chico. He's running for mayor of Chicago, and he wants to start something. Big. In Chicago.
As The Chicago Sun-Times reports this afternoon, Chico held a press conference in the Windy City,
Calling it a “game-changer” with the job-creating punch of O’Hare Airport, mayoral challenger Gery Chico vowed Tuesday to find a home in Chicago for a $3 billion complex devoted to curing deadly diseases.
“You do whatever it takes to make something like this happen. Talk about a game-changer. . . . This can define this city for the next hundred years if we get this right,” Chico said.
“Imagine if we start to cure diseases and all those trillions [spent] to deal with the symptoms to those diseases and providing treatment to those diseases is taken away.”The idea of an American Center for Cures is the brainchild of Chicago businessman, Lou Weisbach, and a Miami physician, Rick Boxer.
What the Weisbach and Boxer have figured out is three-fold: First, the center of gravity in the healthcare debate has shifted from cure to care. Second, a comprehensive approach to combating disease--a Serious Medicine Strategy--is needed, because the incentives are now stacked in favor of medical maintenance; that is, the status quo. And third, the Serious Medicine idea needs a place to crystallize. So why not Chicago? The Sun-Times story continues:
For more than ten years, Weisbach and others have been trying to convince Congress to take some of the money currently earmarked for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and divert it to a mega-center devoted to finding a cure for cancer, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, diabetes, heart and other deadly diseases.
They’re asking Congress for a guarantee of $36 billion a year for six years to operate the center. That’s not counting the $3.5 billion it will take to construct the multi-building complex.
Despite support from Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and others, the dream has gone nowhere amid opposition from the powerful health-care lobby that makes its money treating patients.
“Curing is not what they do and the reason is very simple: There’s really no money in cures. They’re not bad guys. They’re not bad people. But they have a responsibility to shareholders,” Weisbach said.
“It’s unconscionable that we allow a system that doesn’t prevent or cure anything — any major diseases in 60 years — to continue on and just close our eyes.”
Enter Chico, the all-purpose mayoral troubleshooter who has served Mayor Daley as chief of staff, school board and park board president and chairman of the City Colleges board.
If he’s elected mayor, Chico is promising to find a way to make it happen in Chicago. He would find and clear the “acres and acres” of land needed to house the six-building complex and provide taxpayer subsidies to help defray construction costs.
He would also provide “seed money” for development and raise money to lobby Congress.
“I’ve been around long enough to hear the quest for being on the world stage and being a world-class city. We just tried it with the Olympics,” Chico said.
“If we’re gonna pursue something, it ought to be like this, which has a permanence to it in terms of job-creation and spin-off jobs that would be unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the history of this city.”