Thoughts on the Health Care “Crisis” and Obama’s push for payment reform.

As everyone knows the President is pushing for a comprehensive program to overhaul how health care is paid for and to make sure everyone is adequately covered. Unfortunately, the solutions that he is advocating are going to cause an increase in spending by upwards of $2 trillion. This is only going to fuel inflation, further hurt our weak economy, and actually make it harder for people to get the care they desire.
Part of the problem is that health insurance has changed over the years. Insurance is meant to help people pay for catastrophes that may occur. That’s what your car insurance is for. You only use it if you are in an accident. Health insurance should be used only for catastrophes, such as accidents and hospitalizations. But it has developed into a service to pay for all aspects of health – the doctor visits. This would be the same as using your car insurance to pay for gas and oil changes. We think car insurance is expensive now, can you imagine what it would be like if it paid for the everyday things too? Well that’s what has happened to health insurance. People expect it to pay for everything, and now the government agrees. And it is going to cost.
That being said, since we are in the model of insurance paying for everything, let’s look at some of the costs. The cost of health care, from hospital to doctor bills, drugs, medical equipment, insurance, nursing homes, and home health care, doubled from 1994 to 2004. In 2004, the country spent $140 billion dollars more on health care than we did the year before. Overall, the tab for health care spending in this country is $1.8 trillion a year, which is four times the amount spent on national defense. 15% of America’s Gross Domestic Product is spent on medical care which amounts to $6289 per person every year! Is it any wonder that they are calling for some kind of change?
But let’s understand something. This is not money spent on “health care”. This is money spent on Disease Care. The cost of keeping people healthy is negligible, because healthy people do not need hospitals, prescriptions, medical equipment, nursing homes, or home health care. Sick people do, and it is the cost of treating illnesses that is skyrocketing the bill. So far, in all the discussions on Capitol Hill, not one mention has been made about lifestyle. It is all about how to pay for treating all the ill people. If people took more responsibility for their health, wouldn’t that make the costs go down?
Some illnesses are inevitable. But there is a lot the people can do to help themselves to avoid illness, because the two leading causes of illness in this country are smoking and obesity.
It is no secret that smoking tobacco causes heart disease; lung disease and cancer; cancer of the mouth and throat; cancer of the pancreas; and cancer of the intestinal tract. Yes, some people can live a full life of smoking without getting these illnesses, but they are the exception, not the rule. If you smoke, you will get ill. Cardiac disease costs the US more than $400 billion a year in medical expenses and lost productivity, and is responsible for almost six million hospitalizations each year! If the cost of treating cardiac disease is added into all the goods and services that we spend our money on, it is costing each family of four, $460 a month!
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US today. In 2004, more than half a million people died of cancer, which amounts to about 1500 people every day! It is estimated that tobacco use is responsible for more than 170,000 cancer deaths alone. In 2004, cancer cost this country $60.9 billion in direct medical costs and $135 billion in indirect costs due to illness for a total of almost $200 billion! How much is this costing you? Every person in this country has to contribute $719 each year, or $240 a month for a family of four. So far our little family of four is spending $700 a month to treat cancer and heart disease. That could pay most mortgages.
Obesity has also become a major problem in this country. Obesity rates have increased by more than 60% among adults in the last 10 years and will soon overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable death. Since 1980, obesity rates have doubled among young children, and tripled among adolescents. Obesity is a contributor to many chronic diseases including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, colon cancer, gallbladder disease, and arthritis. The yearly bill for treating these conditions is $98 billion for Type 2 diabetes, $8.8 billion for heart disease, $5.3 billion for arthritis, $3.2 billion for gallbladder disease, $1.3 billion for colon cancer, and $1.1 billion for breast cancer. Overall, the total health bill for treating these diseases and others related to obesity not mentioned here is about $137 billion. This costs a family of four $1027 a year, or another $86 a month.
If we add up the costs of treating the health effects of smoking and obesity, our tab comes to more than $700 billion a year! Is it any wonder that it is becoming more and more difficult to pay for illness care?
The problem is that smoking is a choice. And most of the time, not always, obesity is too. If people want to have affordable health care, they have to stop doing things that make themselves sick and then expect the Doctor to fix them. If more people were to adopt healthy lifestyles, the need for this expensive system would go down, as would the costs. As I mentioned before, healthy people do not need hospitals, prescriptions, medical equipment, nursing homes, or home health care.
The government can’t fix this. Anything they get their hands on costs more. Before Medicare and Medicaid, everyone could afford their health care, no one went without. But now those programs, as well as the corporate take-over of health care in the form of PPO’s and HMO’s have served to drive up costs. Combine that with the unhealthy choices people make, and here we are. What we can do is adopt healthy choices. I know I am preaching to the choir here, but share this information with everyone you know. There is something we can do as individuals – opt out of the system, be healthy!

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