The politics of the health care reform debate can often dilute what’s really important. Every time I read or hear a news story about the negotiations and discussions being made between the pharmaceutical industry, insurers, and politicians I wonder if the end result will really be in the best interest of the people.
I do believe that there are many honest and devoted people who are working very hard to find an answer to a difficult problem. The system is quite complex and I certainly don’t have all the answers.
I know that part of the discussion is focused on preventing disease. The reality is prevention is the only true answer to reducing costs and increasing coverage for health care. Many of the most common (and certainly the most expensive…aka heart surgery) diseases are indeed preventable!
By the way… by prevention, I don’t mean angioplasty or surgery! These surgeries can certainly be life saving and do in many cases prevent an individual from having a fatal heart attack. But, what if we get a hold of them about TEN TO TWENTY YEARS before they develop symptomatic heart disease!
So I ask the question…What is the best way to prevent disease from happening?
Is it simply more in-depth screening or should we spend more time educating about disease prevention and providing proactive counseling and guidance?
The answer is probably a combination of the two. However, I worry most of the changes will be focused on increased screening alone, which would actually end up increasing referrals to specialists, procedures performed, and in turn, elevate healthcare costs as a whole.
Many corporate health screenings will tell an individual if they need to see a cardiologist or a lung doctor after a failed stress test or abnormal ECG, but do little as far as proactive disease risk reduction and ongoing management.
In addition, insurance companies don’t always cover preventative screening. The following situation has happened so many times I could regurgitate my steamed broccoli…Through an initial discussion and exam, I have identified a patient as being at risk for development of the big three…Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Cancer.
I’m looking at this individual who, for example, is about thirty pounds overweight, has chronic fatigue, blood pressure is moderately elevated, snores at night, admittedly has less than an ideal diet, and who’s idea of exercise is walking around the office at work all day.
Sure, we all have husbands, wives, relatives and friends who kind of fit this description.
So I order several blood tests to assess their overall picture of health including nutritional, inflammatory, and hormonal markers.
Several weeks later, I received a phone call from the patient that the insurance did not cover the tests and they received hundreds of dollars in bills.
Obviously, I had to curb my enthusiasm for preventative medicine based on these experiences. I certainly don’t want to create a financial burden for my patients!
At the same time, I know these tests are important and could affect the trajectory of their health.
So now you see the conundrum that we face.
Increased screening and proactive management would lead to increased initial costs. However, the cost for procedures, surgeries, doctors visits etc…should decrease in the long run.
Now, if we simply raise taxes and pump money into the system to get everyone covered, but do little for true proactive change and preventative care, healthcare costs will continue to increase over time leading to higher and higher taxation and declines in quality of care.
Most of this discussion has been about reforming ‘the healthcare system’.
What can we do for our own health? It really is up to us as individuals to reach out and become educated about different topics in nutrition, become active, and hopefully reduce some bad habits. Being proactive with your health also means finding the right support care to optimize your efforts.
Physicians trained in preventative medicine including nutrition, exercise physiology, and even hormone replacement are few and far between. However, they do exist. Additionally, finding the right Dietitian and Personal Trainer will go a long way in helping you optimize your health and longevity.
For those who would like to sign up for several quality educational e-newsletters, try one or all of the following, which I have found to be quite informative:
Many of us are struggling to find answers in our current fragmented health care system. It is our objective here at The Lamkin Clinic to provide comprehensive, preventative medical care for all Oklahomans. We can do this effectively by unifying the sciences of nutrition, exercise physiology and integrative medicine.
Call us today for more information or to schedule an appointment!
Brian E Lamkin D.O.