What happens when you don’t have enough money to take proper care of yourself or your family’s health? You do what you can. You sometimes go without, or you delay or borrow from your future in the form of debt.
Example after example can be delineated regarding those individuals who just can’t afford the challenges presented by inflation. Some families and individuals skip their medications, wait longer to take sick children to their pediatrician, or do what’s necessary without coverage and, as a result, can face staggering bills from health care institutions.
Worse still, they can experience sometimes tragic outcomes from those delays.
As a former hospital administrator, it is sometimes tough to hear criticism of the medical establishment, but when it comes to advanced, sometimes esoteric diagnostic tools, unproven drugs that can cost thousands of dollars a dose or access to the very best physicians, the hue and cry is most often, “Bring it on.” This is because all of us want the very best for ourselves and our families.
My Democratic friends embrace their hope for the future through proposed increases in health plans that insure the masses.
My Republican friends warn of the potential train wreck those plans will cause in hospitals as every one will make their way to our care centers with no barriers in place to prevent them from over-running those already strained hospitals.
They always give the examples of elective surgery in single-payer countries. For example, in England, you might wait on average one and a half years for that intervention, and if you are in Scotland, it may be closer to two and a half years before that same surgery is available.
If you want a simple analogy to compare what’s happened to our nation’s hospitals post-COVID-19, all you have to do is examine the parallels between the airline and the health care industries.
Thousands of nurses, medical aids, physicians and other professionals along with similar numbers of ground crew, flight attendants and pilots have exited their jobs due in large part to the strain put on the system by patients and unruly passengers, who either over-whelmed the system or demonstrated their frustrations during these trying times.
Regardless of your political bent, it does seem unconscionable that we have nearly 28 million uninsured residents in this country.
Most of these uninsured are young, single moms and kids who either can’t or don’t vote. This figure also does not include the underinsured and quite possibly may not include any of the projected 15,500,000 illegal immigrants. We are the only industrialized nation in the free world that does not have a true health policy for our people.
So what is the answer? The iron triangle of the best, fastest and cheapest health care is something that cannot exist in a system that is still hanging on ever so completely to an acute care-based model, when the vast majority of our health care challenges are now chronic care cases and cases related to a lack of commitment to prevention and wellness.
One very real answer to this health problem sometimes seems too simple. Our nearly $2 trillion in yearly health care expenditures includes less than 2.9% of those total dollars directed toward wellness and preventative care.
Many of our problems are about wellness. How often have we heard this? Wash your hands, drop some weight, exercise a little, cut out the saturated fats, stop smoking and take steps to control your stress.
Unfortunately, for every thing we try to do to improve our health, our airwaves are saturated each day with what amounts to billions annually in advertisements enticing us to drink more, eat worse and find time to binge-watch from our easy chairs.
Diet, exercise, stress management and group support alone might have prevented hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 deaths, but YOLO, You Only Live Once.
So, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead has become the fatalistic cry of our time.
Nick Jacobs, of Windber, is a health care consultant and author of the book “Taking the Hell Out of Healthcare.”