This article at the The Health Care Blog is well worth the read. The article maintains that preventive medicine and proper management of chronic health conditions are the keys to lowering overall health care costs in America, and that until we adjust our model of medicine as a fix-what’s-broken system to one of keep-it-working-in-the-first-place, we will never achieve an effective, cost-efficient health care system.
I couldn’t agree more. At Colorado Health Insurance Insider, we’ve made our views on personal responsibility and preventive health care very clear. All the doctors in the world can’t make you well if you don’t take the first steps yourself.
But shifting towards a preventive model of medicine is a major step, one that is much easier said than done. By the time most Americans reach adulthood, plenty of poor health habits are already firmly ingrained. Habits like driving instead of walking, stopping for fast food on a regular basis (at the drive-up, of course), watching tv all evening, and expecting a prescription from the doctor for every ache or pain. Trying to unlearn all these habits is a daunting task, and we humans often resemble water in our propensity to take the path of least resistance.
If we really want to shift the medical model away from fixing things after they’re broken and try to prevent the break in the first place, we have to start with the very young. We have to target future doctors who are just starting med school and haven’t yet been trained to look for problems only after they have turned into something that can be treated with a prescription. We have to remove corporate sponsorship from medical institutions that are supposedly set up to provide information and health guidelines to people who are looking for answers. The American Heart Association gets $2 million a year from Merck/Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals (the makers of Vytorin). Guess they might not be that objective after all. We have to disallow pharmaceutical advertising to the public, since the ads bring about a false sense of security that we can do whatever we want to our bodies and then when something goes wrong, get a prescription to fix it. (And maybe end up strolling on the beach at sunset with a tall dark handsome stranger, who might have herpes but isn’t spreading it around, and won’t have any trouble being intimate when the moment strikes).
Pharmaceutical companies and hospitals make a lot more money on unhealthy people than they do on people who keep themselves healthy without medical treatment. People who exercise, eat their spinach, don’t smoke, and find time to relax now and then don’t put much money into the health care system. I suppose the drug companies could try to invent a pill that would make us want to do all those things (who knows, they may be working on it right now), but in general their profit margins are a lot better if more of us have hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Paying medical providers based on keeping patients healthy rather than treating problems after they arise is one possibility, but it leaves the door open to unscrupulous doctors who would turn away patients who are already ailing in favor of building a clientele of healthy, fitness-minded individuals.
Since healthy people generate less profit for the health care industry, it makes sense that in order to truly move towards a system that encourages prevention of disease, we need to remove the profit motive from health care. If all aspects of health care were non-profit, there would be no financial incentive to have sick people. Then we could truly start a dialog on how to keep our population healthier and limit our overall health care costs. Who knows, maybe we could even live a little longer too.