Healthcare is a priority of Congress, the President and individual Americans. Advancements in medicine and medical care have extended our lifespan and reduced the incidence and complications from many chronic diseases. The price for such advances has risen exponentially both in terms of dollars and individual responsibility for our health. Our society has likewise advanced from a labor intensive lifestyle to one that is more sedentary. Much of our work is performed by machines and we spend hours at computers and are addicted to social media. As daily calorie expenditures have decreased, rates of obesity have increased. Our fast-paced daily lives have fostered fast paced meals (and the rise in fast food restaurants). Medical advances have led many to believe that there is a drug or treatment for every ailment or indiscretion. As a result we may no longer be good shepherds of our bodies. Inactivity and obesity have increased rates of a host of chronic (and expensive) medical conditions. Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and arthritis are directly related to the dual threats of obesity and inactivity. We will never control healthcare costs if we can’t control our own poor lifestyle choices. We can include all forms of tobacco and alcohol in excess as habits that are not conducive to good health.
Preventive medicine is more cost effective than occurrence-based medicine. Much of our increased life expectancy is due to widespread immunization, a process that prevents disease in the recipient and his/her close contacts. Some health insurers are innovating provider reimbursement that is based on outcomes. Preventive measures universally achieve better outcomes than occurrence-based practices. Health Savings Accounts give patients more control over their healthcare dollars and encourage healthier lifestyles. A more consistent focus on outcomes could reduce healthcare expenditures. Healthcare consumes a substantial percentage of our GDP. Unless we assume more responsibility for our own health we can only expect more money to be spent on avoidable illnesses.