While the talk at political rallies and on the news continues to be about “free health care” and “Medicare for all,” a different question comes to my mind—if health care is a right for us all, then why isn’t it our responsibility to make healthy choices in our lives? I wrote a blog a while back entitled “Fixing the Health-Care System—It’s Our Job.” Seemed appropriate to reshare now.
The ugly truth is that we all are victims of a health-care system that will never be able to help us, because that is not its job.
That’s right. The health-care system is structured to manage sickness, not manage health. Keeping ourselves healthy is our job—not the system’s, even when preventive testing and screening are included in its services.
Of the top 10 most expensive conditions to treat, seven are chronic conditions (heart disease, COPD/asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoarthritis and joint pain, mental and behavioral health disorders, and low-back pain/neck pain) that are highly influenced by lifestyle choices, including diet, exercise, stress management and smoking. One (hepatitis C) is caused mainly by dangerous lifestyle decisions. And two (cancer and falls/broken bones) are arguably influenced by lifestyle choices. The total cost of these 10 conditions is approximately $1 trillion…per year!!! (Yes…for some people these conditions are genetically linked, but here I am talking about the majority of cases because that’s the majority of the expense.)
The real answer to lowering health-care costs is being in control of your own life. Ironically, it is not in the health-care industry’s best interest to actually cure these ills because the more we are sick and the longer a condition lasts, the more money the industry makes. The more money the industry makes, the more people who are employed and the more money investors, including 401(k) and pension funds, earn.
The medications that doctors prescribe may help, but have you ever heard of the cascade effect of symptoms? That’s when a medication helps one symptom but causes “side effects” that, in turn, are treated with additional medications. The hot example of this right now is opioid induced constipation (OIC). Millions of people who are taking opioids to ease their pain become constipated and then need another drug to fix their digestive tract. Given that the root of our immune system is in our gut, one can only imagine the real cost of this seemingly inconvenient side effect. And, no, eating fiber and drinking water does not offset opioids’ effect on the intestinal muscles.
Similarly, type 2 diabetes is incredibly profitable for the health-care industry because of all the ailments that result from uncontrolled diabetes—heart disease, skin conditions, neuropathy, eye damage, circulation issues and kidney disease, to name just a few. If the industry wasn’t so focused on money, then test clinics that were opened in the early 2000s to teach lifestyle management of diabetes would not have been closed due to lack of profit. Type 2 diabetes costs more than $100 billion a year, and yet the solution (for most diabetics) is free—eat right and exercise.
Don’t believe me? Ask our recently hired chief creative officer. His mother was a medication-dependent type 2 diabetic for nearly 30 years, until she decided to try the advice in our book The 30-Day Diabetes Cure. At her first doctor visit after she started the program, her doctor was astonished to see that all her counts were down and she no longer needed medication. What did she do? Simply followed the advice in the book, which was essentially a plan to help people eat a healthful diet to manage blood sugar and exercise more.
Health is not profitable. Meditating or walking to manage stress and anxiety makes no one any money, whereas billions are spent each year on antianxiety medications, such as Xanax, and antidepressants…and they also lead to side effects that must be treated with additional drugs—sexual dysfunction (Viagra)…insomnia (any one of a number of sleep aids)…constipation (laxatives)…nausea. Got a symptom? There is a pill for it…and a price.
I know that exercising is inconvenient and that kale and quinoa aren’t nearly as delicious as cheeseburgers and fries. But how can we wag a finger at “them” to fix our health-care system, when we are the ones overtaxing it. America spends significantly more than any other country on health care, and yet more than 20 countries have longer life expectancies than we have. In fact, the US spends four times as much on health care as Chile, yet the life expectancy in Chile is 81+ while America’s is 79.
It’s time that we stop pointing a finger at “them” to fix what we ourselves are breaking. Do we need a health-care system? Yes. Is the current system broken? Yes. We can continue to wait for “them” to solve our health-care problems…or we can take control of our own lives. We don’t have to go from zero to 100, but we can start with small changes. Real food versus prepackaged and processed. Walk a little more, and watch a little less. Hug someone each day.
What simple changes can you make today that will help you feel better tomorrow?