A TRIB EXCLUSIVE: How do we fix our health crisis? By focusing on cures, not merely insurance and treatment.
We don't have a health care crisis in America. We have a health crisis. The so-called “Affordable Care Act,” which would be better named the “Unaffordable Care Act,” is President Obama's legacy. And it's so bad that the Congress that wrote and passed it had to get a subsidy to survive it, the government agency (the IRS) that is mandated to administer a major part of it is begging to be exempted from it and organizations like the labor unions that strong-armed for its passage are begging for it to be delayed or disassembled because it will destroy jobs and the traditional 40-hour work week.
Even its Senate sponsor, Max Baucus, has called it a “train wreck” and is so excited about having foisted it upon us that he is retiring from the Senate rather than going out to defend it.
The real “crisis” we face is not “care, “ but “health.” Almost 80 percent of the nearly $3 trillion we spend on health care funds the treatment of chronic disease. The three human factors that drive most chronic disease are overeating, under-exercising and smoking. Chronic disease so drives the expenditures in our health care system that according to Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the father of aerobics and one of the world's most renowned experts in preventive medicine, the average American spends 75 percent of his or her lifetime health care dollars in the last 24 months of life.
Think about that — if we live to be 80 and the cumulative cost of our health care expenses is $1 million, then we would spend $750,000 of that between the ages of 78 and 80. Why? Well, the good news is that we have such great health care, we are able to extend our lives longer due to medical intervention and very effective pharmaceuticals. The bad news is that intervention is very expensive and, near the end, we often are propped up as the living dead — kept alive by exotic but costly treatments.
ObamaCare is not a health care plan at all. It's an insurance plan. It wasn't designed to shift the paradigm of our health care delivery system from the current intervention to the much-needed prevention model; it was simply concocted to get people “covered” with insurance.
But the notion that insurance will create a healthier nation is as flawed as believing that insuring our homes will make them safer, insuring our cars will make them get better mileage and insuring our lives will keep us from dying. And the biggest scam of all in ObamaCare is that for it to work, millions of young and healthy Americans younger than 35 need to buy insurance at rates much more expensive than it actually costs to insure them so they can subsidize sick old geezers in their 50s, 60s and beyond.
As if we haven't burdened the Millennial generation with enough of our slobbering excesses in the form of a $17 trillion debt, staggering costs of higher education and student loans (and the lousiest job outlook for college grads ever) why not whack them with yet another pocket-popping payout to fund the expenses of their parents and grandparents?
The cry of younger voters ought to be changed from “Yes we can!” to “No we won't!”
By trying to insure the 15 percent of Americans who didn't have insurance (many because they would rather spend their money on lottery tickets), Obama has decided to screw up the system for the other 85 percent. But the bigger problem is that ObamaCare is a hodgepodge of payoffs to special lobbying interests that agreed to support it so as to protect their narrow interests.
If we were serious about “reform,” we'd aggressively address the elements of the system that cost us the most money and fix them:
• Alzheimer's disease costs us $200 billion a year and is estimated to balloon to $1 trillion by 2050.
• Diabetes is a $245 billion cost factor, expected to explode to double or triple in the coming decades.
• Add heart disease and cancer, and you have the four most costly (both in dollars and human quality of life) diseases on the table.
What if we embarked on a national priority to fund the science of not merely treating four diseases but curing them? I recall as a child in the 1950s being lined up at the Hempstead County Courthouse in Hope, Ark., to receive my polio vaccine. No one my age or younger that I can remember had polio. But even in my little town, I knew a few kids just a few years older who did have polio. I was 6 when JFK said that, within a decade, we'd send a man to the moon and return him to the Earth. JFK didn't live to see it, but all of our lives have been dramatically improved because of the technology that sent a man to the moon and which brought the discoveries of a lifetime to each of us.
We need health care vision — bold and daring commitments to curing those diseases that cost us most. Instead of building a vehicle to take us to a healthy place, we're just putting more people in a clunker filled with very sick people.