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Wealth Virtues Journal: March 23, 2010

Who is REALLY responsible for keeping healthcare cost down? Look in the mirror

Filed under: Health and Wealth — Tags: , — James Ward @ 7:27 pm
© 2009 Poor Richard Web Press, LLC

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In the debate on the cost of health care, some say that the government should have a greater role in controlling cost and bringing health care to those who cannot afford it. Others say that health care is fine being managed between doctors, individuals (or groups) and insurance companies. The recently forced passage of the health bill by the U.S. Congress gives me great pause for concern.  Don’t get me wrong. I, like every American, want to see every American citizen with health care coverage. But I believe that free markets can do this provided that the government has eliminated barriers to competition (they have not), protects doctors from unreasonable malpractice suits (they have not), and makes insurance portable (they have not). Universal health care does not mean free – it simply means “more affordable”

I do not understand the logic (or constitutionality) of this bill.  The Justice Department stated that “The proposal contains no unconstitutional takings of private property or infringement of liberty interests.” If I am fined for choosing not to have health insurance, then I believe that my private property has been taken (my money = my property), and DOES infringe upon my liberty by forcing me to buy something I may not want, or paying a fine.

What has been woefully forgotten is that any increased regulation will inhibit many from a career in medicine. It then becomes a simple supply vs. demand issue.  Doctors may choose not to accept Medicare payments to avoid losing money.  As much as the socialist left believes that doctors should be above all that “greedy money stuff”, someone has to pay back all the medical education costs as well as maintain a…yes…business.  Only a handful of people in Congress have even started, owned, or even managed a business and almost non have any professional medical credentials.  In the end, the bill was procedurally passed to save a reputation of a politician – one who had no business, medical, or executive experience before taking office.

So what does this mean?  Either way, you will have to pay; either in premiums, or taxes. Is it fair that a person who refuses to quit smoking and is perishing from lung cancer be provided care to treat the cancer at no cost when they were unwilling to take responsibility for their own health? The answer is absolutely NO – it is not fair. However, great societies are also compassionate and do their best to ensure that their citizens do not suffer. It is that compassion that compels us to insure those with pre-existing conditions, but not at the expense of businesses and individuals. Medical savings accounts as well as risk pools can help.  The sad reality is that forcing private industry to take on unreasonable risk by insuring those who have created their own pre-existing conditions made themselves susceptible to tremendous health issues, therefore raising health coverage costs, will put these companies out of business.  Where then will Canadians go for top rated health care?

The real answer I provide has nothing to do with how a society maintains cost and quality of healthcare; rather it puts the onus on YOU. There are health issues that are unavoidable, but your decisions on how you maintain your health, and subsequently pass those habits to your children, is where the real cost savings and quality of health are controlled.

Consider also how many “baby-boomers” will be retiring in the early part of the 21st Century vice the decline or at least the lack of growth in the number of doctors and nurses that will be available to help in the growing number of aging people that will require nursing and health care.  Between 2010 and 2030, the number of people over the age of 65 will double.  Regardless of the brand of health care insurance that will be available, lines for medical services will grow.  The alternative is that quality will suffer.  That alone should be an incentive for a healthy diet and exercise.

According to the American Cancer Society, “…CDC researchers estimate that one-third of all US deaths are due to diseases related to diet, physical inactivity, and smoking. However, the specific links to cancer may be even stronger. It is estimated that about one-third of all cancer deaths in the US are related to smoking, while about another third are linked to diet, excess weight, and physical inactivity. For the majority of Americans who do not smoke, dietary choices and physical activity are the most important factors we can control in terms of cancer risk.

You want inexpensive health care?  Stop depending on the government and take control.  Get off your butt and exercise.  Stop eating the crap at fast food restaurants.  Stop smoking. Cut down your alcohol intake.  Lift weights. Drink lots of water. I guarantee that if most Americans did this, healthcare costs would drop. As Ben Franklin said, “To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.”Sadly, many people want to have others control their lives, and therefore their pocketbooks. In the end, I expect that any business that wants to keep health care cost down will remove smokers and the obese from their payrolls.  Why take the risk?  Why take on the burden of higher health costs for someone who is unwilling to live a healthy lifestyle, but feel they are “entitled” and “deserve” health care regardless of their own dangerous habits.

You can sit there and “hope” some social health system will care for you, or you can take action, and start taking care of yourself…now!

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