Your point about medicine becoming a business, can it be happening more prevalently in the US because of the state of healthcare? As most of us know, the insurance and privatisation of healthcare is a strong force in the US while other "socialist" countries like UK, which doctors are paid on a fixed wage and when the healthcare is free, one would have a better opportunity to establish a treatment plan that is based on the patient's best interest rather than the dollar signs?
On the other hand, a free healthcare system may have repercussions. I remember several lectures by prominent UK professors when they came over to present at grand rounds- they shared that the system there is stretched so thin that they have trouble getting routine bone densities for osteoporosis screening (again, this is hearsay- I never got to work in the UK). Rather, if they suspect osteoporosis they feel it is more cost effective to just treat the patient with a bisphosphonate rather than putting that patient through a scan. Likewise, when I was in medical school in Canada (which has a publicly-funded health system like the UK too) I remember Ben, who had to wait 3 months for an MRI of his knee, because it was for a surgery that was deemed 'nonemergent'. So, if you have a public system, the waiting list ends up being very long because of a lack of funding.
Also, when you have a 'free' system, it encourages patients to take advantage of things. I recall the ridiculously good employee health insurance at my alma mater: employees would not take time off to see their doctors at clinic for minor ailments, preferring instead to just pop by the Emergency Department after work for a sore throat or ear infection. Thus, the ED became overwhelmed and the insuror ended up with a bulk of the bill (since ER visits are always more expensive). Eventually, they had to change their coverage to a less generous plan.
Here, while profits may be a driving force, it also does ironically do some good too; most hospitals have the financial resources to be pretty well-equipped. My current hospital has numerous cath labs, 2 medical helicopters, and numerous top-of-the-line MRI scanners and radiosurgical facilities. True, patients pay a premium for medical insurance compared to some parts of the world, but one could argue that the care they receive tends to be superior, too. Also, over here the fear of malpractice lawsuits indirectly force us to give the best possible care, and probably backfires in the process; the so-called defensive medicine. Ie, the practice of getting more tests than clinically (but not legally) warranted just to make sure we don't miss something. It's one of the issues I have with this place, which is real given the sheer numbers of radio and TV ads everyday, promoting a lawyer's service for any injuries you might have suffered. Take my specialty for example- central hypogonadism (low testosterone) is not uncommon, and in most cases is idiopathic (no clear cause). Yet many professional organizations suggest a pituitary MRI to rule out a central lesion. In my 5 years of doing endocrinology, how many cases of this have I seen? 5 or 6. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of MRIs I've ordered. Practising defensive medicine therefore inevitably jacks up the price of healthcare, and doctors do it not to make money but to make sure they don't miss something that gets them sued.
Also, it's a misconception that we get to bill whatever we like and make more money. We provide care, and we code it according to the level of care we provide (usually dependent on risks, complexity, and there is a pretty strict set of criteria for each). The insurance companies have already pre-negotiated with the healthcare systems to pay a certain amount for every level and the doctors have no involvement at this level. This coverage by the insurance companies (and patients may also pay a small co-pay) is the same whether this is to a private clinic, or a not-for-profit organization like the hospital to which I'm attached (at least, that's how I think it works).
So, I don't really know what the best answer is to things. I don't think I'm smart enough to figure out this problem. But I do think the system isn't ideal, neither here nor there. Here, I despise how it costs my patients so much for care, and for medications. There, while it's great that patients who can't pay still get care, what is the quality of it, and how long do they wait? In many ways Malaysia is similar to the UK's (except we have the option of a private-tier): thinking about my hometown, there isn't even a cathlab for emergency PTCA, so public systems aren't ideal as well.
In some ways, I do catch myself thinking, if you want to have the perfect healthcare system, get rid of 1) the doctors, 2) the lawyers, and 3) McDonald's! That way, you cut down on risk factors, and you get rid of the people who mess up the system (McD: I'm being facetious, obviously. Don't sue me!)