The Future of Health Care
JC Smith, DC
While lobbying during the NCLC on Capitol Hill, I had an interesting exchange with Sen. Max Cleland’s health aide, Tamara Jones, PhD. This intelligent woman was unlike most of the Congressional aides we met who were in mostly in their early twenties and seemed rather unschooled about most healthcare issues, including chiropractic.
I found Tamara to be very bright about these issues since her doctorate is in healthcare matters. After discussing the various chiropractic bills before Congress, such as the VA bill, the Watkins bill, PARCA, and the recent success of the DoD bill, I asked her one simple question: “Do you think the US will eventually go to a single-payer system?”
Maybe I mistook her stunned expression, but it looked to me like I just hit her with a good left hook. Other than South Africa, the US is the only nation on the planet that still has healthcare-for-profit. The medical expenses in other countries nearly bankrupt their systems before they converted to socialized medicine. I mentioned the fact that WHO ranked the US 37th in the world in healthcare delivery systems, and more recently the Institute of Medicine gave a very bad prognosis for the American healthcare system. And Americans are paying over $1.2 trillion for this mess.
She thought for a moment, then without answering me, asked me if I thought so.
“Don’t get me started,” I told her. “How can the insurance industry afford all the inevitable injuries and costs of chronic degenerative diseases?” I asked her.
“Just think of the expenses involved for the average American—junk phood eatin’, TV addicted, tobacco smokin’, beer drinkin’, “I don’t give a care” typical person who lives on dozens of meds to suppress symptoms and scoffs at the “health nuts.” And the kids of these folks are worse growing up on nothing but junk phoods, soda pop and living in front of their TV sets playing games.
“This average American will likely have a couple of bypass surgeries, back surgeries, colon cancer, breast cancer, ovarian or prostate cancer, gall bladder, hip or knee replacement surgeries, to name a few of the typical conditions that strike most people. And what are we talking about in terms of money? Hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses, hospitalizations and disability will become the norm.
“And that’s just the tip of the iceberg considering the senility disorders that render folks incapable of caring for themselves. Long-term care , hospitalization and the huge costs of dying are enormous—just ask anyone whose family member passed away from Alzheimer’s or cancer. There’s no way in high Heaven that anyone’s lone insurance premiums can cover these astronomical costs.
“And it now seems every job is a repetitive stress injury waiting to happen, which means every worker will also have an on-the-job injury to deal with. In Georgia, workers’ comp is a half-billion a year industry, with back injuries leading the way. In 1999 there were nearly 3,000 back injuries costing the state over $28 million, just under $10,000 per case. Disability costs generally range ten times the medical costs too.
“And since most employers don’t give a hoot about preventing these RSI problems, and with the recent veto of OSHA regulations to guard against them, more and more workers will suffer from these musculo-skeletal disorders.”
I told her not to get me started, but she enjoyed my diatribe nonetheless. She admitted she didn’t think it would come to that, but also admitted it may get worse before it gets better. Worse? How much worse can it get?
So, the future of Americans’ health is bleak, to say the least. Prevention is a word used primarily by dentists specifically for teeth, and by less than 10% of Americans overall—the so-called “health nuts” think of preventing anything else, like cancer or heart disease. Most MDs cringe at the thought of prevention since the “pound of cure” is more attractive. Just think: When was the last time your doctor gave a Health Class to teach you how to prevent disease? Most still scoff at natural remedies as “new age voodooism,” but they’ll be the first ones to give you more medications, as if Americans needed more?
Did you know that America is the most over-medicated society in the history of the world? A few years ago it was estimated that doctors wrote eleven prescriptions for every man, woman and child in the United States—not for every sick person, but for everyone. Yet we still lead the world in every category of chronic degenerative disease, allthewhile paying over $1.2 trillion dollars annually for this brand of sickness care.