Health policy in the U.S. heavily relies on the strategy of denial. Health care costs eat up over 16% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The typical American works two months out of every year just to cover medical treatment! Or, to put it another way, in 2007 the U.S. spent an average $7,421 per resident for health care. That same year, total medical costs were rising at 6.1% annually – far higher than the rate of GDP growth. What could you do with an extra $7,421 each year for every member of your family?
If you are healthy, you may think this cost does not apply to you. While the cost is an average, think about all the places that health care costs are hiding.
Federal income taxes – to pay for Medicaid, Medicare, and other programs
State taxes – to pay for the state’s share of Medicaid and other programs
Your health premiums – the amount you pay each month to your employer or an insurance company to cover just being insured (if you have insurance)
Your out-of-pocket costs – your part of the bill when you go to the doctor or emergency room, are admitted to the hospital, buy a prescription, or use any other health care service. If you have insurance, notice that every year you likely pay more to get less in coverage.
Part of every purchase – no matter what you buy, from an electronic gadget to clothes, school supplies, a car or bike, or food, health care costs are hidden in the purchase price. Why? For one thing, the seller has to pay taxes too, and part of its taxes goes for health care programs. Second, the seller is likely providing health care insurance to its employees, with a hefty tab skyrocketing year after year. The seller needs to cover those costs somehow, and you’ve been nominated.
Seventy five percent of the costs ($5,566 for you and each family member) go to treat people with chronic illness. In other words, those suffering from high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s, cancer, autoimmune disease, skin and eye diseases, sinusitis, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and more. The painful list goes on and on. Money is only a minor part of the human cost.
Whether or not there is health care reform will make only a tiny difference in the long run. The soaring costs are not sustainable because other parts of the economy simply can’t keep up. If costs keep mounting as they are, engulfing a bigger part of our national resources each year, it won’t matter who pays or how. Because no one will have that much money and the system will slide downhill.
The only way to permanently construct a sane health care plan is to have people make meaningful changes in their lifestyle. This means reducing the risk of getting a chronic illness.
Eating a plant-based diet of whole foods is the single most critical action you can take to lower costs and stay well enough to survive the imploding system. This choice is for you to make, not Congress. Breathe easy that you can stay largely outside the polarizing health care debate and hospitals both if you make the best lifestyle choices. And that is not as hard as you might think.
If you are already ill and need treatment, this may be of little comfort. If we drastically reduced, as a nation, the total cost of health care through better diet and other great decisions (such as quitting smoking), there will be plenty to go around to take care of each and every sick person. We won’t need to skimp on anyone.
Don’t discount the healing power of a whole foods diet. You may feel a lot better even before we get to that long-awaited day when everyone gets the highest quality care.
Will the health care system be public, private, or a little bit of both once we get costs under control? We would have the luxury of debating options at that point because we could afford to! So let’s get out of denial and start building a healthier nation now. It starts with you.