Taking Your Health into Your Own Hands
It is no secret that I have embraced the concept of informed, self-directed healthcare and am one of its most ardent proponents. In a nutshell, this healthcare philosophy preaches that you must take your health into your own hands and not rely on the "one-size fits-all" type of medicine often provided. If I had simply followed what my primary care physician and first cardiologist offered I would likely have become just another statistic (and not be around to write this article)!
Let's dissect not the minutiae but the broad ideas that are at the center of the current healthcare debate from the perspective of those of us who practice informed, self-directed healthcare. My guess is the very fact that you are a member of HealthCentral.com means you are among this special group of people.
Access to Healthcare
This is the easy one so we'll tackle it first. If you do not have access to healthcare for any number of reasons such as lack of insurance you want nationalized, "free" healthcare. No matter how it is demonized it is still better than nothing. If you have access to good healthcare there is a natural fear that you will be giving something up and you are probably right. There is no such thing as "free" lunch! I'd call this issue a draw
The "One-Size-Fits-All" Argument
One of the arguments against government run healthcare is that it will establish medical boards that will use "evidence based medicine" (whose evidence?) to dictate what treatments people can and cannot receive. Everyone is treated the same. Let me let you in on a "not so secret" secret, we already have this problem. Today it is not a government appointed board but private boards like the American Heart Association or the American College of Cardiology that pushes inane standards like "statins for everyone" on us. With one exception (more later) this will not change much regardless of whether we keep a private system or change to a government run system. Oh, the standards might change but make no mistake; someone other than you will still be calling the shots. Once again, another draw
The Fraud and Efficiency Arguments
Government programs like Medicare are rife with fraud and inefficiency and so is the private sector. The government run fraud is primarily billing for procedures not performed and the inefficiency is simply due to the bureaucratic insanity that tends to be endemic to government run operations. The private fraud tends to be for tests and procedures that are either not necessary or performed to avoid civil malpractice suits. Neither side holds the high ground here. Let's call this issue another draw.
The Consumer Options Argument
As an "in your face" consumer healthcare advocate you probably guessed I was headed here. The biggest issue facing those of us who practice informed, self-directed healthcare is "choices" or more importantly, lack of choices. Let me repeat my most telling real life experience.
I suffer from a viciously atherogenic malady call hyper-lipoprotein(a). In fact, except for this blood chemistry problem my lipids are world class (after treatment). Lipoprotein(a) is a genetic problem that is tough to treat. Naturally, I wanted my children tested so they could attack the situation at an early age if they also tested positive. But my insurance company would not cover it because it has not yet been established (at the time - it is now) by "evidence based medicine" that lipoprotein(a) is an independent factor in heart disease. As we previously covered, it would not matter much whether a private board or government board threw up the "evidence based medicine" argument. Ahhh, but here is the difference. I yelled, screamed, threatened bad publicity and even a lawsuit if my children died of early heart disease (lipoprotein(a) is thought to be a factor in heart attacks among the young) if they did not change their minds. Well, they ended up covering the tests (my daughter is safe but my son is not)!
A government bureaucracy would have scoffed at such threats and perhaps even threatened legal action of their own for harassment! The difference is the private insurer faced competition and has stock holders fearful of bad publicity and lawsuits. This gives the consumer options. How far do you think I would have gotten with a government bureaucrat? The government is a monopoly and virtually immune to threatened legal action.
The Takeaway Lesson
It could not be simpler. If you do not have access to healthcare or you are too disinterested to practice informed, self-directed healthcare you are probably already in the "one-size-fits-all" system and it won't matter much how your healthcare is delivered. Yes, in the private system you have to be ready to go to war but it is a battle you can often win if you are willing to be relentless. The odds are against you when fighting a government bureaucracy.
Do we need to make changes to the healthcare system - definitely! Anyone who reads my blog knows I am among the toughest critics of traditional healthcare. But, I never want to lose the ability to fight for my healthcare and that of my family - and win!
Looking out for your heart health,