Monthly Archives: August 2017

A Prescription For the Health Care Crisis

With all the shouting going on about America’s health care crisis, many are probably finding it difficult to concentrate, much less understand the cause of the problems confronting us. I find myself dismayed at the tone of the discussion (though I understand it—people are scared) as well as bemused that anyone would presume themselves sufficiently qualified to know how to best improve our health care system simply because they’ve encountered it, when people who’ve spent entire careers studying it (and I don’t mean politicians) aren’t sure what to do themselves.

Albert Einstein is reputed to have said that if he had an hour to save the world he’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only 5 minutes solving it. Our health care system is far more complex than most who are offering solutions admit or recognize, and unless we focus most of our efforts on defining its problems and thoroughly understanding their causes, any changes we make are just likely to make them worse as they are better.

Though I’ve worked in the American health care system as a physician since 1992 and have seven year’s worth of experience as an administrative director of primary care, I don’t consider myself qualified to thoroughly evaluate the viability of most of the suggestions I’ve heard for improving our health care system. I do think, however, I can at least contribute to the discussion by describing some of its troubles, taking reasonable guesses at their causes, and outlining some general principles that should be applied in attempting to solve them.

THE PROBLEM OF COST

No one disputes that health care spending in the U.S. has been rising dramatically. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), health care spending is projected to reach $8,160 per person per year by the end of 2009 compared to the $356 per person per year it was in 1970. This increase occurred roughly 2.4% faster than the increase in GDP over the same period. Though GDP varies from year-to-year and is therefore an imperfect way to assess a rise in health care costs in comparison to other expenditures from one year to the next, we can still conclude from this data that over the last 40 years the percentage of our national income (personal, business, and governmental) we’ve spent on health care has been rising.

Despite what most assume, this may or may not be bad. It all depends on two things: the reasons why spending on health care has been increasing relative to our GDP and how much value we’ve been getting for each dollar we spend.

WHY HAS HEALTH CARE BECOME SO COSTLY?

This is a harder question to answer than many would believe. The rise in the cost of health care (on average 8.1% per year from 1970 to 2009, calculated from the data above) has exceeded the rise in inflation (4.4% on average over that same period), so we can’t attribute the increased cost to inflation alone. Health care expenditures are known to be closely associated with a country’s GDP (the wealthier the nation, the more it spends on health care), yet even in this the United States remains an outlier (figure 3).

Is it because of spending on health care for people over the age of 75 (five times what we spend on people between the ages of 25 and 34)? In a word, no. Studies show this demographic trend explains only a small percentage of health expenditure growth.

Is it because of monstrous profits the health insurance companies are raking in? Probably not. It’s admittedly difficult to know for certain as not all insurance companies are publicly traded and therefore have balance sheets available for public review. But Aetna, one of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies in North America, reported a 2009 second quarter profit of $346.7 million, which, if projected out, predicts a yearly profit of around $1.3 billion from the approximately 19 million people they insure. If we assume their profit margin is average for their industry (even if untrue, it’s unlikely to be orders of magnitude different from the average), the total profit for all private health insurance companies in America, which insured 202 million people (2nd bullet point) in 2007, would come to approximately $13 billion per year. Total health care expenditures in 2007 were $2.2 trillion (see Table 1, page 3), which yields a private health care industry profit approximately 0.6% of total health care costs (though this analysis mixes data from different years, it can perhaps be permitted as the numbers aren’t likely different by any order of magnitude).

Is it because of health care fraud? Estimates of losses due to fraud range as high as 10% of all health care expenditures, but it’s hard to find hard data to back this up. Though some percentage of fraud almost certainly goes undetected, perhaps the best way to estimate how much money is lost due to fraud is by looking at how much the government actually recovers. In 2006, this was $2.2 billion, only 0.1% of $2.1 trillion (see Table 1, page 3) in total health care expenditures for that year.

Is it due to pharmaceutical costs? In 2006, total expenditures on prescription drugs was approximately $216 billion (see Table 2, page 4). Though this amounted to 10% of the $2.1 trillion (see Table 1, page 3) in total health care expenditures for that year and must therefore be considered significant, it still remains only a small percentage of total health care costs.

Is it from administrative costs? In 1999, total administrative costs were estimated to be $294 billion, a full 25% of the $1.2 trillion (Table 1) in total health care expenditures that year. This was a significant percentage in 1999 and it’s hard to imagine it’s shrunk to any significant degree since then.

In the end, though, what probably has contributed the greatest amount to the increase in health care spending in the U.S. are two things:

1. Technological innovation.

2. Overutilization of health care resources by both patients and health care providers themselves.

Technological innovation. Data that proves increasing health care costs are due mostly to technological innovation is surprisingly difficult to obtain, but estimates of the contribution to the rise in health care costs due to technological innovation range anywhere from 40% to 65% (Table 2, page 8). Though we mostly only have empirical data for this, several examples illustrate the principle. Heart attacks used to be treated with aspirin and prayer. Now they’re treated with drugs to control shock, pulmonary edema, and arrhythmias as well as thrombolytic therapy, cardiac catheterization with angioplasty or stenting, and coronary artery bypass grafting. You don’t have to be an economist to figure out which scenario ends up being more expensive. We may learn to perform these same procedures more cheaply over time (the same way we’ve figured out how to make computers cheaper) but as the cost per procedure decreases, the total amount spent on each procedure goes up because the number of procedures performed goes up. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is 25% less than the price of an open cholecystectomy, but the rates of both have increased by 60%. As technological advances become more widely available they become more widely used, and one thing we’re great at doing in the United States is making technology available.

Overutilization of health care resources by both patients and health care providers themselves. We can easily define overutilization as the unnecessary consumption of health care resources. What’s not so easy is recognizing it. Every year from October through February the majority of patients who come into the Urgent Care Clinic at my hospital are, in my view, doing so unnecessarily. What are they coming in for? Colds. I can offer support, reassurance that nothing is seriously wrong, and advice about over-the-counter remedies—but none of these things will make them better faster (though I often am able to reduce their level of concern). Further, patients have a hard time believing the key to arriving at a correct diagnosis lies in history gathering and careful physical examination rather than technologically-based testing (not that the latter isn’t important—just less so than most patients believe). Just how much patient-driven overutilization costs the health care system is hard to pin down as we have mostly only anecdotal evidence as above.

Expert Insider Steps to Begin Transforming Your Health & Body Today!

While yes, our team is born in a world of intense high athletic goals such as bodybuilding, it is not our goal to support people to become bodybuilders – FAR FROM IT!;-) So you can relax now!! But it IS our goal to share with you why the lessons from our experience of mastering human health & the body, & how developing a bodybuilder “mentality” for your own life can literally skyrocket you into a level of personal health you never thought possible, while showing you the shortcuts in how to get there! Sound good? Heck, it sounds GREAT to us, because we already know how it can CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

If you are serious about stepping into your greatness of feeling & looking great, take 3 minutes & glean our insight, because this is the single-most MISSING LINK that we see people repeatedly leaving out of their game plan to great health & why they continue to fail at achieving quality health for their lives.

When you have had an experience of taking your mental, emotional & physical self to the level that bodybuilding competition requires, as a coach for others it then allows you to see potential for your clients that they could never envision for themselves without you by their side AND TAKE THEM THERE, and that is the beauty of the gift that we REJOICE in offering others in order to achieve optimal health, energy, & joy for their lives. But to get there…to create a successful transformation of your health & body, you HAVE to begin INSIDE with our 5 MUST-HAVE Steps! Yes, that’s right – the focus begins in the MIND. Time & again we see this process work, and it’s our UNIQUE coaching psychology method that sets us apart, & why we are capable of producing jaw-dropping results with the level of motivational mentality we provide. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you fail to develop the DESIRE & MINDSET to IMPLEMENT it, you will never succeed.

Want the insider view to our winning approach to learn how to transform your own health & body? We’re here to offer you the scoop because it’s our desire to support you fully to achieve authentic, preventative health from the inside, out in your lifetime. So where do we begin? There is a prolific spiritual author named John Maxwell, maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe you haven’t – but he writes of numerous spiritual topics & speaks on how we create TRUE transformation for our lives. Below we adapt his words for our article today because it’s a brilliant synopsis of just why & how we work with clients to coach them through mastering their personal health, as there are so many levels to the process.

When we discuss transformation of the physical body, to be successful we cannot deny that mind, body & spirit are woven tightly together in our being & therefore EACH needs to be considered – not just one. Often people when wanting to conquer health or healing goals immediately BEGIN at the physical, they think weight loss, nutrition, exercise…but that is their first step to failure because they’re joining the race before they’ve even laced their shoes!! When we fail to address mind & spirit in the health process we eventually lose the vision of why we’re addressing the physical in the first place & sadly fall off course when interest wanes, times get tough, or we lose our way because the how-to’s become unclear or appear out of reach. But if we start INSIDE & work OUTWARDS friends, GAME ON!!

Our 5 Expert Insider Steps to Transforming Your Health & Body

So these 5 KEY STEPS must be addressed in order to achieve a complete & SUCCESSFUL health & body transformation, and they must also be achieved in order as follows…

1. When you change your (health & body) thinking, you change your (health & body) beliefs.

If you think what you’ve been taught is healthy by the mainstream media is where your learning stops, then don’t expect to achieve great illness-free, authentic preventative health because they don’t teach proactive health approach, they teach reactive wait til you get sick & then act health approach. Begin to change your thinking to change your belief system about your body and health potential.

2. When you change your (health & body) beliefs, you change your (health & body) expectations.

Once you begin to expand your thinking, start to also seek out experts in areas of health & body who have shown & continue to show PROVEN ABILITY TO CREATE TRANSFORMATION RESULTS in their own health & body that you would like to emulate. Begin to sponge knowledge from them vs. what mainstream media claims leads to great health results, & you’ll in turn raise the bar on what you expect from your own health. You’ll see your new mentor/s are just ordinary people too like you, who decided to blaze their own health path about the quality of health they wanted to achieve for their life by taking the road less followed for their own health in life, and YOU CAN TOO – if you follow in their footprints.

Redefining Health in the 21st Century

What we can’t define, we can’t find; for our definition determines our destination. One of humanity’s greatest debacle is the allegiance to history as a standard for the present and the future. Humanity is so much indebted to old thoughts to the point where, thinking something new seems like a disloyalty to the legends of old. History should not be a status quo or an imperative standard for the present and the future, but an inspiration for the correction of the present and the redirection of the future for a better destiny for mankind. With respect to achieving health for all in the 21st century, humanity must outgrow old thoughts and ways, to the expounding of new methods, approaches, ideologies, and strategies in securing health for mankind. “The significant problems we are facing cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we where at when we created them.

In the past, health was defined as having both body and mind working in good order, free from diseases and pains. If this assertion has been unable to provide humanity with insight on securing health for humanity, then it is expedient for humanity to think out of the status quo. There is no way humanity can resolve the health challenges of the 21st century except in the courage of exploring the unknown. With respect to the 21st century health plan, health is defined as an integrated state of being, of the human body, soul, and spirit functioning in absolute soundness. Thus, health is not necessarily the absence of pains or physical symptoms of sicknesses and diseases. There are individuals with no symptoms of pains, sickness and diseases, yet they are close to their grave. There are equally people who died without having any physical symptoms of pains or disease. Though they seemed to be fine, yet they died suddenly because they were not healthy.

Health is much more than the absence of pains or disease, but an integrated state of being with the human body, soul, and spirit functioning in absolute soundness. Health is an integrated effect with a cause; which implies, health is not a coincidence or an accidental occurrence but the resultant effect of the relative functioning of the human body, soul and spirit in absolute soundness. Let me make this clear, health is not a challenge we can resolve by our shallow efforts. That is why despite all human efforts in achieving health, health has remained a severe challenge. To achieve health for all in the 21st century, humanity must stop joking. We must realize that, we are dealing with a challenge which if not resolved, billions of humans may be wiped out before the end of this century. For health to be achieved in the 21st century, humanity must adopt a more comprehensive and integrated approach taking into consideration the total human being; body, soul and spirit. I hope by now we are civilized enough to know that the human being is not an animal but a complex being with three related dimensions (body, soul and spirit).Any health plan which focuses only on one dimension of the human being will end in failure. A human being must improve in his body, soul and spirit to enjoy health.

Insight on the Human Being:

The human being is the most complex specie in all of existence. Until now, little has been discovered about the human being. What is in existence as information concerning the human being is but “skeleton”. The human being is a world yet unexploited. The ignorance about the totality and the truism of the human being is the greatest challenge to human evolution and progress. The full understanding of the truism of the human being will be the end of human misery and frustration. The human being is essentially a supernatural being, possessing a soul and living inside a body. This assertion is a universal truth agreed upon by all Universalists and equally confirmed in the universal lab manual or the divine constitution. The spirit of man is the ‘real estate’ of man, with the soul as the intermediary between the spirit of man and the body. The human spirit possesses the science of life, which defines humans as having the supremacy over all external factors.

When this consciousness is transferred to the human soul and body, human immunity and resistance against sicknesses and diseases is enhanced. The fact that the human body is the only visible dimension of the human being does not define the body as the sole constituent of man. Limiting the human being to just his physical body can be the most tragic error. Humans are not animals. The most tragic academic mistake is that of classifying humans and animals under the same group. This academic mistake is due to the limited perspective about the human being. This perspective considers the human body as the sole constituent of man. This academic mistake has produced a low mentality and consciousness among humans. Today, humans live and behave as animals because of this error. Humans even suffer the same fate as animals. The day has finally come to eradicate this human ignorance.

Health versus healing

One of the errors humanity has made for several centuries is that of substituting health for healing. This error has lasted for so long that humanity has unconsciously resorted to healing programs in the name of health programs.
Healing itself being the gradual recovery of a sick or diseased human is different from health, which is a state of absolute soundness (body, soul and spirit). Substituting health for healing makes humanity more reactive than pro-active. When we focus on health, we become more pro-active and preventive than reactive.

Focusing on healing entails allowing the human being to first of all be attacked by sickness and disease before looking for her recovery. While health involves pro-active investment to have a human being sound in body, soul and spirit as an integrated effort towards freedom from sicknesses and diseases. Healing is a recovering and a relief from pains but health is a state of being. One can be healed today and sick tomorrow but health implies, an individual is sound in body, soul and spirit. Friend, healing as to health is relatively cheap and sometimes easy to come by, but health is a breakthrough which demands a lot of focus and concentration on one’s body, soul and spirit conditions.

With respect to the 21st century health plan, sickness and disease is considered as an effected state of being, caused by a deficiency in one’s body, soul and spirit condition. This implies, an individual is unhealthy, sick and diseased as long as there exists a deficiency in his/her body, soul, and spirit condition. This explains why people sometime die without any sort of outward sickness or pains. The issue is that, we think a sick person must be under some kind of pains. There are people looking relatively OK, but terribly sick. This is because not all diseases are physical. Body sicknesses can be easily diagnosed, but sicknesses of the soul and of the spirit can not be diagnosed through any medical means. Thus, for a person to be termed healthy, such must maintain a relative state of soundness in body, soul and spirit. Equal and relative functioning of the human body, soul and spirit in perfect harmony and soundness is the everlasting access to health.

Most of what is described as health centres today are but healing centres yet to arrive the full status of a health centre. A healing centre is any centre, be it medical, psychiatric or religious centre where the sick and diseased are cater for or ministered to. While a health centre is a centre of integrated science, where profound and prolific insight on the human being (body, soul and spirit) are communicated and imparted; so as to empower humans both in their body, soul and spirit to forever triumph over sicknesses and diseases. Such a centre must be a research centre which progressively researches on both academic, scientific and insightful divine information and intelligence needed for human supremacy over sicknesses and diseases. Healing requires medication but health requires much more than medication. The greatest investment in health realization is information.

Which Health Insurance Plan Is Best for Me?

Health insurance has proven itself of great help and financial aid in certain cases when events turn out unexpectedly. In times when you are ill and when your health is in grave jeopardy and when finances seem to be incapable to sustain for your care, health insurance is here to the rescue. A good health insurance plan will definitely make things better for you.

Basically, there are two types of health insurance plans. Your first option is the indemnity plans, which includes the fee-for-services and the second is the managed care plans. The differences between these two include the choice offered by the providers, the amount of bills the policy holder has to pay and the services covered by the policy. As you can always hear there is no ultimate or best plan for anyone.

As you can see, there are some plans which may be way better than the others. Some may be good for you and your family’s health and medical care needs. However, amidst the sweet health insurance plan terms presented, there are always certain drawbacks that you may come to consider. The key is, you will have to wisely weigh the benefits. Especially that not among these plans will pay for all the financial damages associated with your care.

The following are a brief description about the health insurance plans that might be fitting for you and your family’s case.

Indemnity Plans

Flexible Spending Plans – These are the types of health insurance plans that are sponsored when you are working for a company, or any employer. These are the care plans inclusive in your employee benefit package. Some of the specific types of benefits included in this plan are the multiple options pre-tax conversion plan, medical plans plus flexible spending accounts, tax conversion plan, and employer credit cafeteria plans. You can always ask your employer of the benefits included in your health care/insurance plans.

Indemnity Health Plans – This type of health insurance plan allows you to choose your own health care providers. You are given the freedom to go to any doctor, medical institution, or other health care providers for a set monthly premium. The insurance plan will reimburse you and your health care provider according to the services rendered. Depending on the health insurance plan policy, there are those that offers limit on individual expenses, and when that expense is reached, the health insurance will cover for the remaining expenses in full. Sometimes, indemnity health insurance plans impose restrictions on services covered and may require prior authorization for hospital care and other expensive services.

Basic and Essential Health Plans – It provides a limited health insurance benefit at a considerably low insurance cost. In opting for this kind of health insurance plan, it is necessary that one should read the policy description giving special focus on covered services. There are plans which may not cover on some basic treatments, certain medical services such as chemotherapy, maternity care or certain prescriptions. Also, rates vary considerably since unlike other plans, premiums consider age, gender, health status, occupation, geographic location, and community rated.

Health Savings Accounts – You own and control the money in your HSA. This is the recent alternative to the old fashioned health insurance plans. These are savings product designed to offer policy holders different way to pay for their health care. This type of insurance plan allows the individual to pay for the current health expenses and also save for untoward future qualified medical and retiree health costs on a tax-free basis. With this health care plan, you decide on how your money is spent. You make all the decisions without relying on any third party or a health insurer. You decide on which investment will help your money grow. However, if you sign up for an HSA, High Deductible Health Plans are required in adjunct to this type of insurance plan.

High Deductible Health Plans – Also called Catastrophic Health Insurance Coverage. It is an inexpensive health insurance plan which is enabled only after a high deductible is met of at least $1,000 for an individual expense and $2,000 for family-related medical expense.

Managed Care Options

Preferred Provider Organizations – This is charged in a fee-for-service basis. The involved health care providers are paid by the insurer on a negotiated fee and schedule. The cost of services are likely lower if the policy holder chooses an out-of-network provider ad generally required to pay the difference between what the provider charges and what the health insurance plan has to pay.

Point of Service – POS health insurance plans are one of the indemnity type options in which the primary health care providers usually make referrals to other providers within the plan. In the event the doctors make referrals which are out of the plan, that plan pays all or most of the bill. However, if you refer yourself to an outside provider, the service charges may also be covered by the plan but the individual may be required to pay the coinsurance.

Health Maintenance Organizations – It offers access to a network of physicians, health care institutions, health care providers, and a variety of health care facilities. You have the freedom to choose for your personal primary care doctor from a list which may be provided by the HMO and this chosen doctor may coordinate with all the other aspects of your health care. You may speak with your chosen primary doctor for further referrals to a specialist. Generally, you are paying fewer out-of-pocket fees with this type of health insurance plan. However, there are certain instances that you may be often charged of the fees or co-payment for services such as doctor visits or prescriptions.