Health Insurance and Health Enhancement

Last week, everyone on social media became a constitutional scholar after the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.  Today I’m going to do a little health-care discussion, but I’m not a constitutional scholar, and won’t be discussing the legality of the ACA.  If disclaimer one didn’t work:  This is not a political statement; this is a health-enhancing statement.

Let’s begin with a quick video from the POTUS:


Thank you, Mr. President, for helping to improve health equity and reduce the disparities in health care.  From the CDC website:

Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to “attain his or her full health potential” and no one is “disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.” Health inequities are reflected in differences in length of life; quality of life; rates of disease, disability, and death; severity of disease; and access to treatment.

One of the primary goals of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) is to achieve health equity by eliminating health disparities and achieving optimal health for all Americans. NCCDPHP addresses health equity through its programs, research, tools and resources, and leadership.

It is important that those in need of care receive it, without losing an arm or leg in the process.  The Affordable Care Act should help ease the financial burden  of obtaining health care.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t really address this:

Chronic diseases – such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis – are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the U.S.

Here are some stats from the CDC that help to illustrate this:

  • 7 out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases. Heart disease, cancer and stroke account for more than 50% of all deaths each year.
  • In 2005, 133 million Americans – almost 1 out of every 2 adults – had at least one chronic illness.
  • Obesity has become a major health concern. 1 in every 3 adults is obese and almost 1 in 5 youth between the ages of 6 and 19 is obese (BMI ≥ 95th percentile of the CDC growth chart).
  • About one-fourth of people with chronic conditions have one or more daily activity limitations.
  • Arthritis is the most common cause of disability, with nearly 19 million Americans reporting activity limitations.
  • Diabetes continues to be the leading cause of kidney failure, nontraumatic lower-extremity amputations, and blindness among adults, aged 20-74.

The four biggest causes of chronic disease are all in your control: lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption.  I don’t think we need stats for those, do we?  Sit in a food court at the mall for 15 minutes and you’ll want to sprint all the way to the not-so-nearest farm, past folks who are drinking and using tobacco.  If these behaviors contribute to the cost of health insurance so much, how about this:

If your lifestyle decisions lead to poor health, you don’t get coverage.

I’ve this idea for several assignments in the past, including for a micro-economics paper about incentives, and for a health-promotion class.  It may be a little self serving, but I like to call it a Darwinian approach to health promotion.  It’s rather simple, and I’ll refrain from morbid examples.  Basically, you have to make your bed and sleep in it, too.  Even if that means you’re sleeping forever.

It’s draconian, immoral, and would never be used, but I find it to be a powerful reminder to people about just how much control they have over their health.  Every decision we make influences our health, and our actions and mindset are extremely underrated.  We exercise then go tanning, smoke so we don’t get hungry, and avoid eating fat so we don’t get fat.  That sounds healthy.

We’ve created so much technology that the human body is de-evolving, and I’m not sure if technology should search for more ‘cures’. We need to stop abusing ourselves in the first place.  After all:

Outside of abstaining from alcohol and tobacco use, the most beneficial things you can do for your health is eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, and go for walks.  Throw in some strength training and organic meat, and you shouldn’t have to worry about the chronic-diseases that affect most Americans.  It isn’t very complex, and there aren’t any secrets.  This shirt is sarcastic, but realistic:

We’re about to celebrate America’s 236th birthday, and you’ll hear tales and tributes about America’s strength and prosperity.  The American dream of BBQ’s, Bud, and ‘fun in the sun’ sounds like heart disease, diabetes, and a variety of cancers.

As the initial response to the Affordable Care Act begins to fade away, I still recommend that you think about health insurance, and how your decisions and actions can ensure that you need it as little as possible.  Health insurance isn’t about health enhancement as much as it’s about death prevention.  Now that not dying isn’t as much of an issue, what can you do to enhance your health?

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