Is putting down the donut the answer?

messages Aug 13, 2009

There was an interesting article this week on entitled "Health reform idea:  Put down the donut" that brought up the concept that what is missing from the health care reform debate is personal responsibility.  Of course this got my attention because I've talked about personal responsibility before (more than once) and it's something that really gets me going.

Here's a quote from the article:  "Having health insurance coverage doesn't make a person healthy. It's what you do with that coverage and your personal choices that make the difference."  Even though I agree with the sentiment of this statement I want to point out that having health insurance is important in allowing people to get basic preventative care, health screenings, inoculations, etc...  But when we back up and look at the big picture, part of what is going on with the health care debate could be likened to trying to solve a scenario where people are constantly driving their cars off cliffs and trying to figure out the best way to provide care.  Have more ambulances at the bottom of the cliff?  Build a hospital at the bottom of the cliff?  Construct a huge pillow to create a soft landing?  How about PUT UP A GUARDRAIL OR SIGN SO PEOPLE STOP DRIVING OFF THE CLIFF IN THE FIRST PLACE?

One of the big issues is that our health care system is too heavily focused on providing treatment after the fact instead of trying to prevent things in the first place.  Unfortunately, the way the system is set up right now there is more money to be made from people who are sick.  (Great article in The New Yorker about this)

Another quote:  "There's no doubt that the bulk of the nation's health care costs are self-inflicted. Smoking, high blood pressure and being overweight are the top risks for early death, accounting for more than 1 million premature deaths each year, with physical inactivity, high blood sugar and alcohol use not far behind, according to an April study by the Harvard School of Public Health.  The price tag for obesity has soared to $147 billion a year, new government studies show, and smoking costs about $193 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity."

Should people with unhealthy behaviors be charged more for health care and insurance?  It's something being discussed.  People who choose to drive motorcycles pay higher insurance rates because it's considered a risky activity.  There are some insurance policies that make smokers pay more.  There is talk of whether people who are obese should pay more for their insurance.  One issue of debate on this topic is where do you draw the line?  Should people who choose to have unprotected sex pay more?  People who drink excessively?  You also open the door to debate of genetics vs. lifestyle.  

What do you think?  I know you have an opinion, so leave a comment!

At the end of the day, who is paying for the cost of unhealthy behaviors?  You are.  I am.  We all are - in the form of higher premiums, taxes, lost productivity, businesses that can't afford to offer good health insurance - it affects everyone's bottom line.  This isn't the problem of "other people".  It's our problem.  It's everyone's problem, and we all need to step up and do our part - whether that's being vocal about what we think needs to be done or questioning our own choices and behaviors.

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