1) Heart Disease
4) Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases
7) Alzheimer's Disease
8) Influenza & Pneumonia
9) Kidney Disease
Do you have a guess as to what this list stands for yet? Need some help? This is the final report of the leading causes of death in the U.S. for the year 2006 which was published in April of 2009 by the CDC.
According to the National Coalition On Health Care the U.S. spent a total of $2.4 trillion dollars on health care in 2007 which works out to be $7,900 per person and 17% of our total GDP. If nothing is done with our current system then these numbers are expected to reach a total of $4.3 trillion dollars by 2017 which would be equivalent to 20% of GDP. All of this while we currently have a little over 15% of the population with no health care coverage and many more millions under insured.
Ummm... HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM!!!
But you already knew that now didn't you. So what can we do about all this? We could argue back and forth like the politicians do. They quickly forget about people like my friend Kate - Health Care Reform Touches Home.
However, I truly believe that there is a better answer. I believe that an overwhelming majority of our health care expenditures come down to the many decisions that YOU and I make on an everyday basis. That's right! Our success or failure as a country to reduce costs in an effort to provide access to quality health care for all Americans is not determined by our government or politicians or even our doctors. It's determined by YOU and I! How is this you say?
In Part I below I will explain to you how the everyday choices of over 300,000,000 Americans has a tremendous impact on 7 of the top 10 leading causes of death from above excluding accidents, influenza & pneumonia, and septicemia. Your choices in diet, exercise habits, and lifestyle are the major determining factors of not only your own overall health care costs in these regards but also everybody else's too. And it is in these key areas where the majority of success can be obtained in providing long term health care reform in the U.S.
In Part II below I will discuss some key points that I believe need to be taken to correct the inadequacies of the structural and organizational components of our current health care system. And I would encourage you to write your federal representatives as I have done so already to voice your opinion and provide them with your solutions regarding health care reform. Here is a website for you to find their information - Contact Your Representative.
If everyone including you chooses to take a more responsible role in their own individual lives then we as a country can virtually eliminate 7 of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. and substantially reduce overall health care costs. Here's how you and I can do this...
- Diet - The vast majority of Americans have an extremely unhealthy diet. This is by far the most important area in my mind where we can make a difference. As Americans we eat foods that are much to high in fat, cholesterol, sodium, and many other unhealthy ingredients. This leads to heart disease, strokes, cancer, diabetes, and many more diseases that diminish our quality of life, empty our bank accounts, and ultimately lead to our cause of death. Here's how you can make some major improvements in your life with diet... Transition to a diet that includes only fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant based proteins, and is low in fat. Remember to also add a vitamin B12 supplement in addition to this. To learn more I highly recommend that you read The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. You can also view these websites Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's site, Dr. John McDougall's site, Dr. Joel Fuhrman's site, Vegetarian Times and Shattering The Meat Myth.
- Exercise - At least 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week is sufficient. Don't overdo it! Work at a pace that's comfortable for you. Of course you should always check with your physician to ensure you are healthy enough to start an exercise program.
- Lifestyle Choices - Stop smoking and/or drinking excessively! And obviously illegal drugs are out of the question along with inappropriate use of prescription medications. Drinking one serving of red wine a day has been shown to be very heart healthy according to the Mayo Clinic. Find ways to reduce stress which include yoga, meditation, praying, etc. Get plenty of regular sleep - at least 8 hours a day.
Here are some specific reforms that need to be put in place in order to have a health care system in the U.S. that empowers us to succeed instead of encouraging us to fail as is the case with our current system.
- Restructure the reimbursement system to reward health care providers and organizations for providing proactive medical care instead of reactive medical care. Preventative care needs to be the cornerstone of our health care reimbursement system.
- Create an alternative public plan that anyone can buy into in order to provide competition to the unregulated capitalistic private health care insurance industry.
- Prohibit any public or private plan from discriminating against pre-existing conditions.
- Prohibit any public or private plan from making a profit on BASIC medical care. This is done all over the world and done very successfully. Making a profit as an insurance company on lifestyle procedures (face lifts, liposuction, etc.) would be permitted.
- Prohibit any public or private plan from setting any annual or lifetime cap on medical benefits.
- Allow patients to choose any doctor, hospital, or clinic they want.
- Provide the necessary funding for 100% conversion to electronic medical records.
- Reduce administrative costs by coming up with one single way that health care providers and insurance companies bill for services. Taiwan currently issues electronic cards (similar to a credit card) to all its citizens and this is what is used for all billing transactions. Their administrative costs are a little over 2% as opposed to over 20% in the U.S.
- Invest heavily in diet and lifestyle public education. We've done this before with the stop smoking campaigns over the years and it can be done again with healthy diet and lifestyle education.
- Consider subsidizing memberships for U.S. citizens to a gym or recreational facility.
- Prohibit lobbying of any kind by any health care related industry in politics. The business done on K street needs to end for good!
- Put a cap on the amount that can be awarded for malpractice lawsuits. Individuals and families should be compensated for gross negligence but receiving $10 or $20 million dollars instead of $1 million is not going to make that patient or family happier in the long run. And it only serves to increase costs for everyone due to pure GREED!
To learn more about the pros and cons of healthcare systems around the world watch this program - Sick Around The World. We can learn a lot from our worldly neighbors. We can also learn a lot from practicing preventative medicine. Please visit this website to learn more about that topic - Functional Medicine. To learn more about how the current unregulated capitalistic private insurers work in the U.S. watch this interview with a former Cigna executive - Wendell Potter interview.
In conclusion please realize that we are capable of so much more here in America and yet we settle for less. We have a healthcare system that needs some major reform but ultimately long term success is not dependent on any government program or private insurance company but rather OURSELVES. You and I need to make better everyday choices to reduce not only our own individual costs but the entire nation's cost in general. By making better decisions on our diet and lifestyle we'll also attain the added benefit of feeling better and living a longer life filled with years of positive activity instead of dreadful suffering. And if you're telling yourself that it's just too hard to break old habits then my advice is that any small, positive step forward is better than doing nothing at all.
Thank you for reading this post and feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns and I'll be happy to respond. Please share this with everybody you know to allow for an open and healthy discussion of real solutions to our many health care challenges.