Health Care Reform is Not the Answer!August 28th, 2009
As promised, president Obama has been focused on making major changes to our broken health care system. Despite the volatile mix of passionate support and heated opposition that it’s inspired, both sides are completely neglecting the most important issue.
There’s no doubt that health insurance is important. We all want the comfort of knowing that we can rely on quality health care during times of need without incurring a lifetime of debt. Unfortunately, the rapidly growing cost of health care has risen out of reach for many people, and as a result, has created a significant challenge for the US government that is likely to affect us all.
Why Health Care is Expensive
Heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes, which are preventable in many cases, are just a few of the health problems that have become quite common and are leading to significant medical costs. A single patient could easily incur tens of thousands of dollars in direct medical expenses for some of these conditions.
According to the American Cancer Society, the direct medical costs for cancer treatment in 2008 totaled to more than $90 billion, and according to the American Heart Association, direct medical expenses in 2008 for treatment of heart disease totaled to just over $170 billion. This is what your expensive health care premiums are paying for each month.
Why Should I Have to Pay?
Part of Obama’s proposed health care reform will prevent health insurance companies from denying coverage to anyone who’s willing and able to pay. However, to offset the added cost that insurance companies will incur as a result, everyone who can afford to will be required to have health insurance. In other words, if you don’t want to contribute to paying the inevitable medical expenses incurred by people who live unhealthy lives with reckless abandon, tough luck!
Don’t get me wrong, I care very much about the welfare of others, but that doesn’t mean I should be forced to help pay their medical bills. I appreciate the fact that some tragic health conditions are unavoidable, but this isn’t always the case. Many of today’s most common and expensive health problems, including heart disease and cancer, are closely associated with lifestyle and are often preventable. As such, why should people who are conscientious about their health be held accountable for those who aren’t?
A Lesson from the Past
According to statistics from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the death rate from heart disease increased 53% between 1900 and 2006. This increase represents 35% of the total cost of heart disease care in 2008 which amounts to just over $100 billion. Based on mortality data from Vitality Statistics of the United States reports, the death rate from cancer increased by 195% between 1900 and 2005. This increase represents 66% of the total cost of cancer treatment in 2008 which amounts to more than $60 billion.
If we could reduce the rates of cancer and heart disease to what they were in 1900, it could save $160 billion per year, and that doesn’t even include the many other preventable diseases that are common today. Instead, the government wants to force insurance companies and wealthy tax payers to compensate for the high health care costs caused by a national epidemic of unhealthy habits. Although I don’t belong to either of these groups, I still think this is the wrong approach.
Why Health Care Reform is Not the Answer
More people need to wake up to the fact that many of today’s health problems are preventable and that prevention means much more than early testing.
Think about what has changed since 1900. We eat much more processed food and much less whole food, we’re regularly exposed to thousands of chemicals that didn’t even exist back then, we’re much more busy and stressed, we get much less sleep, and we’ve developed an unhealthy fear of sun exposure. Each of these factors contribute to the development of poor health and disease, but we have complete control over every single one of them. Based on how significantly our lifestyle habits have changed over the past century, it should be no surprise that we have an epidemic of poor health, and in turn, significant health care problems. However, trying to fix health care without fixing the causes of poor health is not an effective solution.
If the government is going to impose health care requirements on us and increase the amount of tax money spent, I’d much rather see these resources invested into education. Simply convincing people to eat more traditional whole foods and fewer processed foods would be an excellent start and could make a significant difference. Instead, we’ll most likely have to continue paying high health care premiums and continue listening to the politicians battle needlessly about secondary issues.
If you’d like more information, here’s a convenient overview of health care reform from the N.Y. Times.