Sunday, August 16, 2009

Health Care by Numbers - Right and Responsibility of Individual Health

According to the proponents of health care reform, the biggest problem with current US health system is that there are so many uninsured people in this country who drives up cost of health care for every one when their ER visits could have been avoided with access to primary care . Another problem is that Americans are at the mercy of insurance companies and they need relief from insurance companies who put profit ahead of people. But are these really true? Let us look at some numbers.

Highlights from LA Times Aug 16, 2009 report

Total Insured in the US: 253 million (84% of people)
Total Uninsured: 47 million (16% of people)

Assuming that insured people pick up the cost of the uninsured, our health care cost should only be 16% higher than what would be considered as a normal cost. US's per capita health care spending is almost twice that of industrialized nations! So the first argument is inaccurate and there is some thing else driving up the cost.

What about the second argument? According to a TIME poll Aug 10, 2009, 86 % of people are satisfied with their current health care plan. So 72% of all population has coverage and satisfied with their current health care plan. So Does that sound like a demographic in trouble seeking help from uncle Sam? Not to me. 14% of insured people who are not satisfied will need legislative help keeping their insurance for perpetuity at the existing rate even when they are out of job, have a pre-existing conditions or diagnosed with chronic illness.

Now, why 16% of population does not have insurance? Do you think they are too poor to afford insurance coverage? From the LA Times report:

Uninsured below federal poverty line: 15 million
Uninsured who make at least 4 times federal poverty limit: 4.5 million

Note: Federal poverty line: $10,830 for individual and $22,050 for a family of four

32% of the uninsured does not have any means to buy health insurance and will need help. 10% of the uninsured is making 4 times federal poverty line and would not need any help.
While we embrace the noble goal of health care for all, why not we start with 1/3 of the uninsured who are at or below federal poverty line?

Did any one tell you that illegal immigrants camping at ER is causing your cost to spiral out of control? Only 7 million illegal immigrants who are uninsured. They are adding just a few cents to the 6-dollar Tylenol at the hospital!!

So what is really driving up the cost? The problem is more fundamental than everything that is being discussed these days. Its individual responsibility for their own health. Our politicians keep talking about 'right' to health care but unfortunately we don't have a leader who can tell us about our 'responsibility' to take care of our health.

"Unfortunately many of our health-care problems are self-inflicted: two-thirds of Americans are now overweight and one-third are obese. Most of the diseases that kill us and account for about 70% of all health-care spending—heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity—are mostly preventable through proper diet, exercise, not smoking, minimal alcohol consumption and other healthy lifestyle choices" - John Mackey co-founder and CEO of whole foods.

We are fascinated why Canadians and French spend less on health care and live longer but we don't bother to ask how many of us are living our lives irresponsibly and sheepishly expecting some one else to pay for it. There will always be health care surprises even if we all made healthy and affordable lifestyle choices, not including shopping at whole foods for organic bananas. But as a society, it is easier for us to take care of a few unfortunate than to carry the burden of irresponsibility.

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare

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