Opinion by Consumer Advocate Tim Bolen
I’m about to tell you about one of the most important cases in US healthcare, an assault, and a turning point – the prosecution of a Northwestern Indiana cutting-edge Doctor of Osteopathy, Wilbert C. (Cal) Streeter.
Although few have ever heard of the Streeter case, it, of itself, and of its result, make it a landmark. The case began, roughly, in 1996, as the result of certain pressures put on the government by the nefarious “quackbuster” operation, and it is still going on – but has taken an entirely different, and interesting turn.
The case is interesting to the powerful North American Health Freedom Movement because it was THE CASE, I believe, that was supposed to be the “model case” to be used against all“Alternative Medicine” practitioners nationwide. But since the case pretty much died on the vine, so to speak, the “model” was dropped, and although the tactic was used in a few places – it wasn’t continued.
This is probably the very first case where the credibility of the “quackbuster” operation was questioned at the Federal Prosecutor level – and found wanting. The entire case against Streeter was based upon the premises about health care put forward by the “quackbuster” operation at the Federation of States Medical Boards (FSMB) annual meeting in Chicago in 1996. There, a major program was presented. It was, supposedly, on “Health Fraud,” and how to combat it. But really, it was an attempt to deflect the Federal government’s interest AWAY from then Attorney General Janet Reno’s definition of “Health Fraud,” as “Over billing, false coding, MD kickbacks, etc,” and push it towards a different focus – “Alternative Medicine.”
That plan, put forward at the Chicago FSMB meeting is called the “Plan of ’96” and although it caused some damage, in the end it failed. I’ll tell you about the actual plan, and who operated it, and where it stands today, in a minute. I believe that the Streeter case was the FIRST time the tactic, presented in Chicago, was used. And, there were victims.
One of the first “victims” of the “Plan of ’96” was a large patient group in Northern Indiana, an area that included the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. About 10,000 patients of Cal Streeter DO were one day suddenly deprived of the cutting-edge services of their physician – and they’ve suffered for it ever since. They are still angry about it – and have decided to do something about it – ten years later.
In short – they want Cal Streeter DO back in practice, and they are getting their way, whether those that want him out of practice like it or not. And, they’ll probably be targeting, by various means, those that caused their loss of Streeter’s services. It’s going to be an interesting battle.
But first, let’s put this case into perspective with what’s happening in US health care ten years later – 2006.
The US HealthCare System is Badly Broken…
There are as lot of reasons why, in 2006, US healthcare is rated seventy-second (72) in quality, but number one in cost, worldwide – and it’s the number one killer of Americans – ahead of heart disease and cancer. The US healthcare system is broken.
One of those reasons, of course, is the New York ad agency’s “quackbuster” operation, a scam designed to stop any, and all, innovation in health care that competes with the “drugs, drugs, and more drugs” approach to health care – a paradigm favored by HMOs, and organizations offering the health care swill I call “Five Minute Medicine.”
“Five Minute Medicine?” Yes, that’s what I said. “Five Minute Medicine,” these days, is the reality of conventional health care in the US. It’s where a patient has a health problem, gets an appointment six weeks later, waits an hour-and-a-half in the waiting room, twenty minutes in an examining room to see a Physician’s Assistant for all of FIVE Minutes, the last three minutes of which are taken up writing three new prescriptions, so they can go stand in line for an hour-and-a-half at the pharmacy, to shell out their $300 co-pay.
In other words US medicine has been reduced to a reliance on drugs for everything. And, there is a formal organization working to keep that situation in place, without change, no matter what.
It’s that “Five Minute Medicine,” I think, that, by itself, is driving so many Americans into the use of “Alternatives” in health care. Americans, like the rest of the people of the world, have the idea that health professionals are there to solve their health problems – after all, that’s what they shell out all that money every month for – so they think. When a patient gets disenchanted with the“Five Minute Medicine” system, inevitably they’ll find “Alternative Medicine,” and the fact that the “alternative” practitioners actually spend time with them; listening to them, working out treatment plans, talking to them about their problems, explaining things, and asking tons of questions – and in the long and short run, actually improving the patient’s health and welfare.
But, the reality is, that health practitioners who spend time with their patients, and have a reputation for solving patient issues, paint a big target on their backs. And, who targets them? The New York ad agency run “quackbuster” operation.
For years, well known “alternative” practitioners were picked off, State by State, license by license – but the shift from “Five Minute Medicine” to “Alternative Medicine” continued to grow by leaps and bounds – so much so that, in a panic, certain representatives of “mainstream medicine,” came up with a plan to try to turn the tide. It was called the “Plan of ’96” and although it caused some damage, in the end it failed. I’ll tell you about the actual plan, and who operated it, in a minute.
Why It (The Plan of ’96) Was Formally Assembled…
The “Plan of ’96” is, and was, a scam… It was designed, an implemented, as a “disinformation campaign” for specific reasons. “Medicine,” in 1996, was faltering because of three things
The FIRST thing was reports showing that medical care in this country was so bad that doctors and hospitals were listed as the third largest cause of unnecessary death. Since then, they have moved to the Number one spot. Americans have been finding out that the average MD these days, beyond the emergency room, has little to offer beyond the “magic bullet,” meaning the new drug pushed this week by the drug company salesman.
The SECOND thing was a 1993 report in the New England Journal of Medicine (JAMA) that showed the huge financial impact of “Alternative Medicine” on the US health care dollar. It was, and is, cutting into “Drug” profits.
The THIRD was the Clinton Administration’s identification of “health fraud” as a major cause of health care’s rising costs – and the announcement of Attorney General Janet Reno’s plans to deal with that issue STRONGLY.
HOW THE SCAM WORKS…
In 1996, the New York ad agency’s “quackbuster” operation, launched their attack. It was a four part disinformation Public Relations campaign designed to kill two birds with one stone. They wanted Janet Reno (and the American public) off their backs, and they wanted to get rid of their upstart competitor “Alternative Medicine.” So they came up with a simple plan – re-define the term “Health Fraud.” The intent was to re-define the word AWAY from Janet Reno’s definition of “Over billing, false coding, MD kickbacks, etc,” to a different focus – “Alternative Medicine.” They put the plan into effect.
PART ONE of the plan was the “definition switch,” described above.
Janet Reno, in her original plan to combat “Health Fraud,” had expected cooperation from the State Medical Boards. She expected the Boards to prosecute billing cheaters. She NEVER got that cooperation. In Chicago in 1996, at the Federation of States Medical Boards (FSMB) annual meeting, a major program was presented. It was, supposedly, on “Health Fraud,” and how to combat it. Conspicuously, there were no speakers from Janet Reno’s team. If any of Janet Reno’s people thought this was going to help the Federal program – they were wrong.
The Feds that were attending must have been in shock, upon seeing the presentation. Only once in the program was the Fed’s definition of “Health Fraud” ever mentioned – it was by FTC’s Matt Daynard who made it clear that their (the FTC’s) concerns were MUCH broader than theirs. Other than an apparently confused Daynard, no where in the program was there a discussion of how to prosecute doctors who “over-billed, false coded, took kickbacks, etc.” All they talked about was “Alternative Medicine,” and how to prosecute it – calling it “Health Fraud.”
From that moment on, with the exception of the Streeter case – While Feds prosecuted sleazy hospitals, greedy MDs, clinics, ambulance operators, home suppliers, etc., State Medical Boards were to target two categories (a) solo practitioner MDs that recommended supplements, exercise, etc., instead of prescription drugs, and (2) unlicensed competitors to the drug/surgery dollars, i.e.; Naturopaths, Homeopaths, Nutritionists, Health food Stores, Massage Therapists, etc..
And the war began in earnest. For, even then the North American Health Freedom Movement, although not organized, had muscle. Hundreds of fights across the nation, ensued.
PART TWO of the plan was to affect Federal Agencies – and try to redirect those agency’s efforts away from the Justice Department’s program, and convince them to focus their energies on“Alternative medicine” proponents. They did this with a four-part sub-plan. (a) They invited FTC and FDA lower level employees to their meetings for the express purpose of propagandizing, and kissing-up to them. (b). They created a system of “meetings” where they had access to those Federal employees on a regular basis – for the purpose of propagandizing them (c) They used their contacts within those Federal agencies to gain unwarranted credibility for their own plans, and anti-alternative medicine programs. (d) They got the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to give them official government credibility.
DHHS was duped into giving the quackbusters unwarranted credibility. for a long time if you typed in the key words “health fraud” on a government website, up popped the National Council Against Health Fraud’s website, and quackwatch.com. That has since been stopped, after complaints were filed.
PART THREE of the plan, was a propaganda gambit. It was in two parts (a) create a so-called “information base.” Websites appeared, sounding authoritative, like Stephen Barrett’s sleazy”quackwatch.com,” and others. The questionable organization, the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF), was to provide so-called “expert witnesses” for testimony. The FSMB was to act as a clearinghouse, both for names of people suggested for prosecution (persecution), and for where to find “information” and “expert witnesses.” And more…
The second part (3b) , and equally important was to demonize, and criminalize, all aspects of “alternatives” through false suggestions, or claims, against them. For instance; The claim that herbals are “untested” and not “standardized” is simply a ploy to make herbals look bad. Herbals do not need to be “tested,” nor “standardized.” Herbals are more like wine – since they are a natural product, dependant upon natural factors like weather, no two batches are going to be the same. Herbals, being part of nature (part of earth’s life cycle) have been field tested since the beginning of time. The “testing” process we the people put in place is for new “drugs,” not herbals – those things, unlike herbals, that have NEVER been introduced into the human body before. Generally speaking, drugs are HUGELY DANGEROUS – hence the warnings of side effects.
PART FOUR of the plan was to create a relationship with Medicare, and the health Insurance Industry, to supposedly, advise them of “health fraud.” It incorporated, in a sub-plan parts One, Two, and Three, above.
So, What happened to Cal Streeter?
That’s an easy question to answer. He was punished for being “Alternative.” In 1996, he was raided, had his patient and practice records seized en-masse. Then he was followed continuously, and finally, in 2002, six years later, he was arrested in front of his patients and staff on a whole list of bogus charges never taken to Court. Those original patient records seized have NEVER been returned.
In essence, with the outright seizure of his records, his practice was shut down without “due process.” The intent was, clearly and obviously, to put him our of business, and stop his “alternative medicine” practice.
Probably the biggest reason that Cal Streeter was selected was that he was, primarily, treating Cancer patients with “alternative methods.” One of the important components of “Alternative”treatments for Cancer is the revitalizing the body’s immune system, and that’s exactly what Streeter was doing to his patients.
In the end, all of the charges, but one, were dropped against Streeter, and he made an agreement to plead guilty to that charge. That charge “money laundering” had to do with buying supplies for cash in Mexico. Streeter served some time in jail, and when he got out, went back to his practice only to find that the State of Indiana was refusing to renew his license. Streeter sued, and the Courts forced the State to restore his license. But then, the State appealed the decision – and the war is still on.
The war in Indiana parallels the same battle being fought nationwide. On one side are those that viciously protect the “drugs, drugs, and more drugs” approach to health care – the health care swill I call “Five Minute Medicine” – The system responsible for the US ranking seventy-second (72) in quality, but number one in cost, worldwide – and it’s the number one killer of Americans – ahead of heart disease and cancer.
On the other side are those fighting for change in the paradigm. The Indiana group is taking a very aggressive approach. I’ll keep you posted.
Cal Streeter is one of the featured Speakers at the Health Freedom Expo Convention in Chicago this coming June 9th, 10th and 11th, 2006.
By: Tim Bolen, Health Freedom Advocate