Our nation’s healthcare is quite the sticky topic these days. Most consumers are aware that we don’t have the perfect system – no surprise there. And, even with the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act that will take full effect in 2014, we still won’t have fully addressed the crisis that has been plaguing you and me, the patients. So, the FitBehavior Team has decided to write a series of articles for the purpose of raising awareness of the healthcare crisis – what is it and how it affects us individually – as well as to address what we as individuals can do about it. By no means will this be politically charged or incentivized. We are merely attempting to distill information that is publicly available, in a way that is relevant for you and me, as patients and consumers in our flawed healthcare system.
The Healthcare Crisis – What is it, and Why Should You Care?
Long gone are the days when your family physician oversaw you health from birth to grave, without undue influence from pharmaceutical reps, insurance companies and others who have gained a big slice of today’s healthcare dollars pie. While innovations in research and technology mean better options today for achieving cures and extending quality of life, the system that now provides them is unwieldy and fragmented – patients are no longer the core-focus.
We’ve all heard horror stories of care denied or choices limited because of insurance dictates, huge medical bills that put families into bankruptcy, and conflicting (and even damaging) advice between specialists who are focused just on one area instead of the whole person. Yes, the advances in information are welcome, but the cost is staggering – both in dollars and effectiveness of implementation.
In 2011 the cost of health care expenditures in the U.S. was $2.7 trillion (17.7% of our national GDP) – $8,650 each for every man, woman and child. That’s twice as much as other industrial countries spend. And, those numbers are increasing at an alarming rate, with expenditures for health care costs expected to be 20% of GDP by 2020.
According to the Institute of Medicine, we have $750 billion of excess spending in American healthcare. Dave deBronkart, international keynote speaker for patient advocacy and patient-engagement, offers some perspective on this number: “If Intel, Microsoft, Apple, GM, IBM, Ford, Chrysler and Dell all went out of business, it still wouldn’t add up to that much.”
Spending all that money means we’re a lot healthier, right? While many individuals do receive excellent care that extends the length and quality of their lives, the U.S. is ranked near or at the bottom in 9 key areas of health, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic lung disease. The U.S. boasts the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world, and weighs in at a measly #16 in life expectancy for men and #17 for women (click here to learn more).
These factors affect everyone, even those who are getting excellent care. One way or another your wallet is being hit hard by healthcare costs – and that hit will just get bigger. Plus, the lack of emphasis on the individual, wellness and prevention means you’re probably not as healthy and resistant to illness as you could be…resulting in higher costs for more intense, retroactive treatment in the future. Sounds very familiar to a quote from our buddy Ben Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
We’ll address some positive trends – and what you can do now to reduce your costs while improving your long-term health – in the next few articles of this series.
The full series: