Yes, how you can help reform health care. If you have ever read my “About” story from my website, you know that after 22 years, I recovered from a chronic illness by “reforming” my health care. Before you have your own health care crisis or your health deteriorates and impacts your quality of life, please become part of the solution by taking charge of your health.
In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine on October 23, 2008, Victor R. Fuchs says that there are “Three Inconvenient Truths” about health care:
1. “Over the past 30 years, U.S. health care expenditures have grown 2.8% per annum faster, on average, than the rest of the economy. If this differential continues for another 30 years, health care expenditures will absorb 30% of the gross domestic product1 — a proportion that exceeds that of current government spending for all purposes combined.”
At present, the United States spends about twice as much per person on health care as the average high-income country.
2. “Advances in medicine are the main reason why health care spending has grown 2.8% per annum faster than the rest of the economy.”
How can we retain most of the health benefits of future medical advances while slowing the rate of growth of health care expenditures? Part of the answer lies in the creation of a large, semi-independent organization…to evaluate the benefits and costs of new medical interventions. The other part of the answer is for health care organizations to be willing and able to incorporate the assessments into their daily practice. (See Kaiser Daily Report below – Opinion Piece Calls for Evidence-Based Approach to Health Care, Citing Success in Baseball).
3. “Universal coverage requires subsidies for the poor and those too sick to afford insurance at an actuarially appropriate premium; it also requires compulsion for those who don’t want to help pay for the subsidies or who want a “free ride,” expecting that they will get care if they need it.”
No country achieves universal coverage without subsidization and compulsion, but U.S. politicians tie themselves and the health care system in knots by proposing reforms designed to conceal these realities. Politically, the most appealing plans are those that mislead people into thinking that someone else is paying for their insurance. Currently more than half of insured Americans obtain their coverage through employment, and workers have been led to believe that their employer bears most of the cost of their care — a belief that labor-market experts have concluded is invalid.4 When a firm pays $3,000 to $7,000 per worker per year for health care, it can get that money in only three ways: reducing potential wage increases, increasing prices for what the firm sells (which means lower real wages for workers everywhere), or lowering profits.
During the past three decades, health insurance premiums have increased about 300% (after adjustment for general inflation). Where did the money come from for higher premiums? Out of wage increases that would normally accompany growth in productivity. During these three decades, the average worker has not received any increase in inflation-adjusted wages. Corporate profits, by contrast, have increased by 232% before taxes (284% after taxes), adjusted for inflation.5 The belief that employer contributions to health insurance come out of corporate profits rather than workers’ real wages reflects the triumph of hope over experience — and represents a tremendous obstacle to gaining public support for a more efficient, more equitable way to pay for health insurance.
The confusion about employers’ role is paralleled by confusion about government’s role. Politicians often claim that the government is “giving” people health insurance. In fact, every dollar the government spends on health insurance must come out of the public’s pocket. If the government is acting responsibly, the money will come in the form of taxes. If irresponsibly, it will be borrowed, creating debts for which future generations will have to tax themselves in order to pay interest and principal.”
From articles in the Kaiser Daily Health Care Report, we learn that hospital visits rose 31% from 1994 to 2004 and that there were 1.1 billion hospital visits in 2004 alone. In addition, and compounding the problems in our unhealthy society, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a survey that 36% of U.S. residents have delayed medical care in the last year because of cost.
With health care the number two issue after the economy among likely voters (and the two are obviously intertwined with health care costs in the trillions of dollars), it is obvious how important reform is. At present, the United States spends about twice as much per person on health care as any other country and that money, as we learned above, is coming out of our own pockets.
So what can you do? Simple – regular exercise and healthy eating will go a long, long way to keeping you healthier and out of the doctor’s office. You will be part of health care reform by reforming how you care for your own health and not be part of this enormous problem that we have.