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Monday, November 14, 2005

How Much Does Prevention Cost? (And Whose Priority Is It?)

Wellness Web Coach

Many local governments are struggling with soaring health care costs. Medicaid is poorly underestimated, therefore, poorly funded. The lower income brackets struggle to attain affordable insurance that fits their needs. Smaller communities are losing health care professionals for the more lucrative metropolitan areas. Basic medical care provided by family practices is dwindling because medical specialties are more attractive career choices. Why has health care become out of reach in cost and in geographical distance? What can we do about a disappointing health care system?

Looking at current trends, it would appear that the U.S. should be considered healthy with our health care dollars reserved for crisis medical care. However, in the book, Primary Care: Balancing Health Needs, Services, and Technology by B. Starfield, (Oxford University Press, 1998) cited health care spending in the U.S. at $3724 per person, which is almost twice that of Japan’s health care spending. Japan is ranked #1 in quality health care; the U.S. ranks 37 compared to 191 countries. The U.S. is ranked last in infant mortality compared to 12 other industrialized countries.

The Department of Health and Human Services reported in The New York Times, January 8, 2002, that the increases in health care costs are due to the high cost of pharmaceuticals. However, more pharmaceuticals have not lead to better health. The March 2004 issue of Life Extension Foundation showed that medical intervention is now considered the number one cause of death, with medical doctors and scientists providing stacks of papers to prove it. This article is such an eye opener that I included a link to the entire article (Click Here For LEF).

Demonstrating how less intervention may be best, The British Medical Journal reported decreased deaths at an Israeli hospital when the doctors went on strike.

It appears that more money is spent on others expenses besides direct patient care. The New England Journal of Medicine reported in 2003 that health care administration costs, benefit programs, hospitals, practitioners, nursing homes, and home care agencies make up $31% of all health care costs, while Canada’s administrative costs are half that. Even with all this spending, we are the sickest nation and medical care is now the number one cause of death.

Increased spending has not resulted in better health. How we spend our money now needs to shift. Government and personal spending both need to be overhauled. According to Dr. Bob Martin on his radio program, only 3% of our health care dollars are spent on prevention. His idea of prevention includes nutrition, exercise, regular chiropractic visits, stress reduction, limiting the use of drugs, and managing health concerns conservatively to avoid surgery.

Unfortunately, insurance programs would rather pay for a heart bypass instead of regular use of high quality grape seed extract supplements to maintain healthy arteries. The increased use of credit cards to pay for eating out and fast food not only endangers our health, it also keeps people in such a high debt ratio that simple things such as gym memberships, chiropractic care and shopping for organic groceries are placed lower on the list of priorities. Regular patients in my office know about the chiropractic studies showing better overall health and significant money savings when ongoing chiropractic care is part of a preventive/maintenance program.

Changing health behaviors is not easy without the proper support of a health care team that focuses on prevention. If a dollar went into a slush fund for every New Year’s resolution that was forgotten by Valentine’s day the National Debt might be paid off. The good news is there is a Wellness Paradigm shift gathering momentum. As more people realize the rewards of embracing the attitudes toward self care and prevention, there will be less burden on our society that currently provides temporary and expensive solutions to the health care crisis.

More Links:

British Medical Journal--Deaths Decrease When Doctors Don't Work

An Ounce of Prevention: Lessons from Katrina

Dr. Bob Martin


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