We can have better health care--if we try

Submitted by Lee Batdorff on Fri, 07/24/2009 - 07:41.

Providing health care for all is a complicated situation. An area that needs much more discussion and advocacy is how well people take care of themselves. An old housemate of mine, Jeremiah Sable, is a primary care physician in another state. He entered the field enthusiastic to bring good health care to poor people. And he grew skeptical over time. He told me, "Even though they are told by their doctor how to become healthier many people do not change their ways and grow unhealthier." 

The obesity crisis is an example of this. A 57 year old man, I heeded the words of my doctor at the Neighborhood Family Practice and finally cut out all fast food. My weight dropped over 10 pounds in three months. I may be in the minority. I could do this because I’m able to purchase healthy food. People with out the means to buy healthy food, and who live far from sources of wholesome food, often wind up buying processed foods from convenient food shops near their homes.
 
Even so, many people who do have the money and access to good food apparently don’t choose it. I work on the front line of retail in a local copy shop near several grocery stores that offer good food. At my counter I view unrelenting girth by a sizable portion of the customers. Sometimes it feels like I'm in a John Waters movie complete with an obese and dysfunctional cast. Obese Divines and other bulging people parade in on a daily basis. While some people have conditions that make them portly, for many this happened by choice.
 
I wish the proposal for the “Public Option” included the following sentiment: “And so my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,” said President John F. Kennedy in his 1961 inaugural address. This would be altered to state: “Ask not what your country can do for your health care—ask what you can do to make your health better, help you feel better, and reverse the country’s sky rocketing health care costs.”
 
Providing a somewhat complicated product to the public, copies and photo reproductions, has made me privy to how much people pay attention to what they are about. A lady recently asked “why don’t you provide written instructions to doing these complicated tasks,” in self service copying. I knew the answer. “Mam, people don’t read.” I know this because people ask me where the color copier is while looking directly at a machine posted with big letters, “Color Copier.”
 
Often the expectation is that the staff will provide all that they consume. So, it is not unusual that someone brings in a mess of a copy job and state, “I can’t figure this out. Please do this for me.” Rather than thinking, many choose to consume. Apply this to health care, and see one reason why we have sky rocketing health care costs.
 
Just think of the huge savings in national health care spending that would occur if a majority of people changed their ways and ate healthy food. Of course large segments of the food industry would fight such a change. With the forces of habit and commerce against it, changing people’s eating habits can’t be done? With unrelenting pressure from the federal government, health care providers, advocacy groups, and numerous court cases, look at what has happened to tobacco consumption in this country since the 1960s. It took forty years. Now smokers are so much in the minority that governments feel free to tax them at higher and higher rates.
 
To get a handle on our behavior read Dan Ariely in his book Predictably Irrational. It provides numerous examples of how economic decisions made by individuals are often not rational. Behavioral economics must be addressed in any health care debate. 
 
Unfortunately at this time, messing around with the issue of people taking lousy care of them selves is probably a distraction from the politics that are now playing out. President Obama’s Public Option is meant to address many health conditions that people have that diet will not control. Our elevating health care costs are also determined by CEO pirates leading private health insurance companies. Watch the brute force of advertising produced by the health insurers on your TV in the next month. This is paid for by people who have health insurance.
 
Fortunately TV provides another view of the situation. On July 10th Bill Moyers interviewed Wendell Potter, formerly of the health insurance industry. Potter told of visiting a health care event not unlike one held in Cleveland recently. What he saw was starker. It was held at a rural fair grounds with the patients being examined in animal stalls. People came from miles around for the care. After more review of the health insurance industry he remembered Dante’s quote: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality,” and quit his high paid job to become a health care activist working against his former employer. Mr. Potter said that the Michael Moore film Sicko is accurate and on target. He went on to describe how the health insurance industry is doing everything in its power to discredit the movie and Mr. Moore. 
 
The program is eye opening:
 
 
In the long run personal health care must become all important. Personal health and diet should be taught throughout K-12 along with personal finance. It probably will take the federal government, health care providers, advocacy organizations, numerous court cases, and much personal determination, to press upon all of us to pay attention to what we eat. This will be necessary because otherwise health care costs will bankrupt this nation and everyone in it. It will be tougher than a moon shot.
 
Can we do it? “Yes we can,” said President Barack H. Obama.
 
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what you eat

Lee,

Thanks for this interesting article. I agree that a revamp of our healthcare system is strongly linked to large multinational corps like big ag and big food and big PR. I know that the media carries the message to consumers every day and night round the clock - the message is get sick, we can make you well. I see the money changers at the hospitals reveling in their godlike powers to return "health" to the stricken. Per your observation on changing the way we consume tobacco "they who have put out the people’s eyes, reproach them of their blindness. - John Milton

These guys, like Burson-Marsteller even partner with other companies to make up and deliver fake news or heavily spun news directly to you for your consumption pleasure (search fake news on this page).

So one hand giveth (ill health) and the other taketh away. How this is not corruption, I do not know. Meanwhile, as Noam Chomsky reminds us, the steady stream of content (advertising) and fill (programming) flows by us around the clock on TV, radio, internet and in print. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. The messages? Be afraid, very afraid, the color coded terror threat alert repeats in the sound system of airports, drink this eat that, drive this way, walk that way, take viagra - it's your right to still have sex even though the food you have been eating has made it near impossible. Don't have sex you teenage girls and boys even though you are bombarded with sex in every commercial that you see in every corner and front feature of the media. Swine flu is a pandemic and pharma companies stand to make a killing, get ready to open not just your wallets, but your very skin as well. But never mind, because we have been in your bodies for some time now with our ingredients that you cannot pronounce, do not know their source and care not what damage they might be doing to you or environments and workers far away. Have it all; have it all right now. Get it while you can. Live high and luxuriously, you "deserve it". Yes you can. And when the bill comes due it will most likely be paid to a hospital.

So what is our mighty Obama proposing to "fix" this? Not much. Too centrist to suggest single payer for health insurance reform, he remains vague, but these two women, Dr. Marcia Angell and Trudy Lieberman with Bill Moyers offered an interesting view of what's in store for those of us who are like sheep saying "Go Obama go!" as healthcare/health insurance reform is on the agenda.

Here's a snippet:

MARCIA ANGELL: Well, that goes to the cause of the problem. We are the only advanced country in the world that has chosen to leave health care to the tender mercies of a panoply of for-profit businesses, whose purpose is to maximize income and not to provide health. And that's exactly what they do.

BILL MOYERS: The President, as you were saying a moment ago, is saying to everybody who's not covered, we're going to mandate that you exercise that right. We're going to mandate that you buy some form--

MARCIA ANGELL: We're going to deliver the private insurance companies a captive market. That's right. And they love that.

BILL MOYERS: Say that again.

MARCIA ANGELL: They love that.

BILL MOYERS: The-- his policy does what? His program?

MARCIA ANGELL: Delivers to the private insurance industry a captive market. (emphasis mine)

BILL MOYERS: By the mandate.

MARCIA ANGELL: By the mandate.

BILL MOYERS: It says "Marcia Angell, you've got to--"

MARCIA ANGELL: For whatever price they want to charge. Right. And so, this will increase costs. And let me tell you what he's running into, and he'd like to be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat, but he won't be able to. If you leave this profit-oriented system in place, you can't both control costs and increase coverage. You inevitably, if you try to increase coverage, increase costs. The only answer, the only answer, and he said it at the beginning of his press conference, is a single payer system. In his first sentence, he said, that is the only way to cover everyone.

BILL MOYERS: But he's also said, if we were starting the system from scratch, we could have single payer. But we're not starting this system from scratch.

MARCIA ANGELL: You know, you don't pour more money into a failing system. You convert.

I don't want to be delivered to an insurance company by mandate, do you? Right now they've got us squarely in their cross hairs - we are consumers of whatever they dole out. Our responsibility (forget rights, those have been eradicated) is to refuse to consume this shit. Slowly slowly we will have to wean ourselves from the products they are pushing. It is nigh impossible,  but as collapse comes we stand a chance. We have a chance to stand and say, not in my backyard, take your Kraft Foods and shove them right along with their additives like lecithin, xanthan gum, monosodium diglycerides and polysorbate 60.

I am not above reproach by a long, long shot. I am a child of the 50s whose diet has consisted of processed foods from birth. I have been suckered just like the rest of the world, but the only way to change that I can see is to slowly slowly (not fanatically) make the switch to whole foods. Yes, the processed food industry struck it rich when they figured out how to dismantle foods and charge us to put back the specter of what they removed in their food safety methodologies. Now our government proposes to secure that make 'em sick, make 'em well partnership. Somebody's gonna get richer, but it will most likely not be the average American citizen. Why not? Because the average American has ceased to be a citizen and has become a consumer. That's how we like it in the world of unbridled and government assisted capitalism.

Many years ago as a college student I ran squarely into a teaching that blew my mind. G. I. Gurdjieff said we see reality upside down. Further, "It is feared that if men knew that, as part of organic life on earth, their sole purpose is to feed the moon, they might kill themselves." Though I declined to become involved in the secret societies surrounding the study of these ideas, I continue to verify them for myself everyday. Just like drops in the ocean, we are merely part of the wave that washes onto the shores of big ag, big pharma, big insurance, big usury structure. It's a house of cards.

 

Cross Section of Poor Folks' Diets

Some poor depend on staples of processed foods provided through food centers....better known to the poor population as a "jail house diet."

Some of the poor come from the mountains of Appalachia where they grew up on what they cropped... So they have a great love of fresh produce and non processed foods... Love them Fried Green Tomatos! 

Some live off of the cheap foods allocated through SAVE A LOT grocery stores... with minimal fresh produce options... Boy do I miss the days of PICKNPAY! There where rows of fresh vegetables and groceries lining half the store! 

DIET in general is what we eat, not a way to lose weight. As our population doesn't like to spend time using the restroom-many folks are backed up with processed foods, expanding bellies, and wishing that they could figure out a way to "lose that weight!" 

As I learned about DIVERTICULAR DISEASE through a family member's experience... I came to be amazed about the human body and the realities of how society's perceptions changed basic living requirements.

A doctor noted that humans should be going to the restroom within 1 hour of eating a meal to have a bowel movement. If you want to be regular-then this is an indication of that. However, because most folks have primed themselves to go on average of once per day because of schedules- many are backed up and need to do a colon cleanse. Once folks realize this alone-they can change their habits.

But-once again... habits of the poor are quite curious... they get directives from doctors, but then go home and refuse to listen to the doctor's advice.  That's a mental block that needs to be addressed at large....

 

habits of the poor are quite curious..

 What? After years in health care, I can tell you that many patients from all economic groups refuse to listen to their physicians advice.

 

I also take issue with the overall slam against poor people and the promo for colon cleanse. Are you selling that?

I think that the mental block that needs to be addressed here is our lack of community.

Debbie

Absolutely Agreed, Let's build a Community that Empowers

Yes...we need a sense of community where we can speak openly, share our concerns, overcome our ignorances, and progress healthily ahead in life!!! Thanks for your sharing... I appreciate it.

It was not my intention to offend the poor...I know what it's like to be poor. I was referencing the word "poor" from the intro article---{An old housemate of mine, Jeremiah Sable, is a primary care physician in another state. He entered the field enthusiastic to bring good health care to poor people. And he grew skeptical over time. He told me, "Even though they are told by their doctor how to become healthier many people do not change their ways and grow unhealthier."}

 

1) I apologize that I don't have your wordly experience to recite the idea that EVERYONE's got similar issues in this matter. It's nice to know that you are able to let us in on that diversity.

2) It's not a slam against poor people...it's a reality for many.. which is something I see regularly from being in their homes, with their families, and living amidst them daily. When you are poor enough to have to live meagerly and choose between veggies and staples to survive for the whole month while paying rent, utilities, and basic needs off of a disability check of approximately <$700.00 per month-plus trying to buy groceries on that kind of disability stipend...then let me know how you fare.

3) No, I am not selling the Colon cleanse... I was enlightened about it last year. It's not something I would depend on for long term issues.... But, by learning about it in general, it was an awakening to my own DIET issues and health aspects. It was something that made a difference in my mentality about eating habits .... and it caught my attention enough to help me change unhealthy habits.

So, let's work to build a sense of community in our region...to unify our people and share everything we can with them to empower them at all levels! I appreciate that idea!

 

your are welcome

but I do suggest that you read the article in it's entirety. 

Debbie

Krugman Blog: Why markets can't cure health care

When a company is always trying to cut costs, and what company isn't, what does it mean for your health care, and a healthy society, when it is paid for by an insurance company? Read economist and columnist Paul Krugman's take on this situation:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/25/why-markets-cant-cure-health...

 

Health care funding is topic on NPR's Fresh Air 7/28/2009

On Tuesday 7/28/09 NPR's Fresh Air will feature program host Terry Gross interviewing economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. He provides much light on the economics of health care. On Monday 7/27/09 Fresh Air featured Century Foundation fellow Maggie Mahar is the author of Money-Driven Medicine: The Real Reason Healthcare Costs So Much, published in 2006. Find Fresh Air pod casts at:

http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=13

Bruce Missig on this dilemma

The following was pulled from Midtownbrews.net where this story was also posted:

You are absolutely correct on whaty has to be done.  However big business has their hands into to many things.  We  would save much more money in the health care business if we educated the masses on how to eat and live a healthier life style. 

The food industry is so powerful that getting them to make changes won't happen unless we all stood up and stop eating the junk that they sell us.  Ninety to ninety five percent of all health conditions in America are brought on by are Modern American diet.

If we eliminated white sugar, white flour and white rice this would be a step in the right direction.

Go see the movie Food Inc very scarey what the future generations of children are infor, also read the book Sugar Blues very insightful as to how powerful the sugar industry is and how deadly sugar is to our bodies.

Could go on forever on this topic hower the bottom line is education and the changing of our diets lets get back to nature, Mother Nature put everything we need in our food to help maintain the body at optimal levels.

Have a reat day

Bruce

Bloomberg: Health-Care Ads ‘Go Over the Cliff’ to Sway U.S.

Major media in the U.S. is amidst major lieing on the health care issue according to the following account. As Gerswin once composed: "It ain't necessarily so." 

It turns out that both CNN and Fox embellished a story with the word "cancer":

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aE9psIrN_KAU

Watch your weight: Obese and overweight get deserved attention

Please note, an overweight person has gathered these links. I'm working on it however. The statistics are sobering:
Percent of non-institutionalized adults age 20 years and over who are overweight or obese: 66%
Percent of non-institutionalized adults age 20 years and over who are obese: 32%
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm

And coverage in newspapers and magazines is growing:

Plain Dealer
, Tuesday, July 28, 2009 – Medical costs for obese are higher, study says The price is 42 percent more than for others -- First sentence: If you are obese, you probably are paying for it in decreased mobility, increased sleeping difficulty and higher risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
http://www.cleveland.com/medical/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/news/124877...

New York Times, Tuesday July 28, 2009 – Obese Americans Spend Far More on Health Care – First sentence: Obese Americans spend about 42 percent more on health care than normal-weight Americans, according to a new study based on 2006 figures.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/28/health/policy/28obesity.html

US News, July 27, 2009 – Fighting the High Costs of Obesity and 7 Other Secrets to Living Younger – First sentence: You've heard it all before: Don't smoke, get fat, drink to excess, or skip breakfast. But how much do these health habits really factor in?
http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/heart/2009/07/27/fighting-the-h...

Why the stock market is bad for your health insurance

PBS must have heard from a lot of people about the Bill Moyers feature: Reforming Health Care because they ran it a second time on July 31st.

The following transcript portion spells out exactly why private health insurance doesn't work to provide good health care:

WENDELL POTTER: They spend about 20 cents of every premium dollar on overhead, which is administrative expense or profit. So they don't want to compete against a more efficient competitor.

BILL MOYERS: You told Congress that the industry has hijacked our health care system and turned it into a giant ATM for Wall Street. You said, "I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick, all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors." How do they satisfy their Wall Street investors?

WENDELL POTTER: Well, there's a measure of profitability that investors look to, and it's called a medical loss ratio. And it's unique to the health insurance industry. And by medical loss ratio, I mean that it's a measure that tells investors or anyone else how much of a premium dollar is used by the insurance company to actually pay medical claims. And that has been shrinking, over the years, since the industry's been dominated by, or become dominated by for-profit insurance companies. Back in the early '90s, or back during the time that the Clinton plan was being debated, 95 cents out of every dollar was sent, you know, on average was used by the insurance companies to pay claims. Last year, it was down to just slightly above 80 percent.

So, investors want that to keep shrinking. And if they see that an insurance company has not done what they think meets their expectations with the medical loss ratio, they'll punish them. Investors will start leaving in droves.

I've seen a company stock price fall 20 percent in a single day, when it did not meet Wall Street's expectations with this medical loss ratio.

You can find the complete transcript at:

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/07312009/transcript4.html

Watch what you eat: see Food Inc.

Listen to how your health insurance is being diminished

Bob Edwards interview with former Cigma health insurance executive Wendell Potter. Several weeks ago, Potter testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation about what he sees as an industry corrupted by Wall Street greed and investor expectations. Stream and podcast:

http://www.bobedwards.info/ftopic921.html&sid=fd877af7a72ad7a15bba75e5066068aa

Health Care Gets Ready To Rumble

Health insurance crisis: Does drowning out thoughtful discussion and rumor mongering constitute democracy?

Commentator Daniel Schorr said on Saturday August 8ths NPR's Weekend Edition that it is likely that the health insurance industry is part of the reason that congressional town hall meetings concerning health insurance are being disrupted.

Daniel Schorr: Don't get sick in America
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111589242

Since most people have health insurance they are "satisfied with" it appears that public opinion is moving against health insurance reform. Tough for the 50 million without health insurance and tough for the people with health insurance who are denied coverage because of "pre-existing conditions." All is fine for me and the hell with thee, until one becomes thee.

Health Care Gets Ready To Rumble

Healthcare insurance becoming biggest crisis in Obama's presidency

 
Obama seeks to dispel health-care 'rumors'
 
Gov't want's to kill your grandma
 
Barack Obama's campaign organization, Organizing for America,counterattacks
 
Mob scenes and death threats over Obama's health reforms

Our health insurance dollars paying for lies

Remember that it is  our privately funded health insurance dollars that are paying for the ads lieing about Canadian one payer system health insurance. Expect your premiums to increase to cover the cost of these ads. Canadian health care dollars go into health care, not political ads.

Does Canada's Health Care System Need Fixing?

Ode to Michelle O

From Pres. Obama's first state of the union address: Considering the importance to improving health and dropping obesidy rates in this nation I can't think of anyone better than Michelle Obama to lead a program to do these things. She will need help in the fight with the fast and other food industries.