As we watch our healthcare premiums go up each year, outpacing our raises; as our co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pockets rise and rise and rise; as we hear pundits and politicians shout about "affordable care" - I'm going to let you in on a dirty little secret:
And what's more, even if they did, they are not interested in lowering the cost of healthcare for you or for me.
Oh, there are tons of ideas out there. Most of them involve layers upon layers of additional regulation, bureaucracy, and red tape. Ideas that increase, not decrease, the cost of care. Ideas that will build the profit margins of insurers, hospitals, healthcare systems. Ideas that may lower the cost for employers (who are desperate to lower costs - hence, wellness programs).
But for the average working Jane, not so much.
In the United States, our healthcare costs significantly outpace the costs (as a percentage of GDP) of other first world nations, with poorer outcomes. While that's not necessarily an argument for single-payer, it does speak to the fact that in spite of the high cost and in spite of the calls for "value-based care," we just aren't getting what we are paying for.
The proposed panaceas of electronic medical records, Obamacare, physician and hospital ratings, wellness programs, consolidation of physician practices under healthcare systems, all have failed to move the needle on cost.
Meanwhile, chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are growing like a proverbial cancer.
So, while we as individuals may not be able to do much about the skyrocketing cost of healthcare for our population, we can start to do something about our individual costs. Ultimately, the only chance we have to control our own healthcare costs is to take control of our own health, especially as it intersects with the possibility of lifestyle-influenced chronic disease.
Eighty percent. That's a huge number.
Type II diabetes, with its potentially devastating consequences, owes much of its prevalence to lifestyle.
Imagine how much could be saved in costs just by making the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent or decrease these chronic conditions. Imagine the impact on health!
Every day, I meet patients suffering the consequences of heart disease and type II diabetes. The cost for these patients is enormous (even if they are not directly paying the costs themselves, we are paying through social programs like Medicare and Medicaid). Imagine those costs multiplied millions of times over.
It's becoming more and more clear to me that we have to take control of our own health. It can be as simple as starting with a daily walk, simple changes in our diet to choose healthier foods, taking time to de-stress. We have to start making the changes in our lifestyle and habits, and we have to do it now. We can't afford not to.