Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The health care debate: an angle not mentioned

The United States, no doubt, is the most powerful country in the world. But when it comes to managing our health care costs and ensuring health care access to citizens, we are one of the worst. Did you know that our health care spending is 4.3 times the amount spent on national defense? (source: NCHC)

As I'm watching presidential hopefuls debate over health care costs on national television, I'm astounded that there is a lack of effort, a lack of recognition on why our health care costs are so high.

Let me introduce a new catch phrase on this debate: personal responsibility.

Ah, yes, that word that seems to strike at the very core of our society. This is where we take responsibility of our own actions rather than blame it on others. We are all guilty of straying away from this principle because it tends to hurt the ego. But the truth is, a lot of our health care costs are due to the lack of personal responsibility, specifically the personal lifestyles we choose that hurts the entire nation.

Here's some examples:

  • In a 1998 analysis by health economists of the University of California, cigarette smoking costs about $72.7 billion a year.
  • According to a CDC report, being overweight and being obese costs us roughly $92.6 billion in 2002 dollars.
  • According to the Marin Institute, total cost of alcohol problems is $175.9 billion a year.
  • According to the same site, $114.2 billion a year is spent for drug abuse problems.

What I just posted are just some glaring examples of how the lack of personal responsibility equates to higher health care costs. In short, one of the main reasons health insurance costs are so high is that we abuse our own bodies. We don't sleep right, we don't eat right, we drink too much alcohol and not enough water,, we don't exercise, and we abuse substances that we know are bad for our bodies. We then turn around to our politicians and say, when we get sick because of these actions, I want you to pay for it.

So now that we understand the lack of personal responsibility as a major cause of rising health care costs: how do we fix this problem?

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