Monday, October 05, 2009

Health Care: What Happened to The Part About "Personal Accountability?

Part of the campaigns of both candidates for President last year focused on "personal accountability."

Now, with relentless bailouts of financial institutions, car companies, and a "stimulus" that is supposed to make everything better, I am left wondering what happened to the "personal responsibility" part.

This is obvious across the spectrum, but perhaps nowhere more in your face than the various health plans being promoted on both sides of the aisle.

Bottom line of all plans: Extend health care to everyone. Ignore pre-existing conditions -- even if they are self-inflicted. In insurance terms, it is the prohibition of underwriting risk. In plain English, it means those who take care of themselves will be paying for those who have and continue to abuse themselves with food, alcohol and tobacco, just to name three.

But let's take one, the most common one in our society -- obesity.

Under these circumstances, being overweight or obese is not just a personal issue that affects one's health but is also a public health issue that impacts other people in society, especially those who are paying the bills.

A recent study in the journal Health Services Research reveals that the extra Medicare cost associated with overweight elderly people will cost hundreds of billions of dollars across the entire current Medicare population.

The article's findings show that treating the health needs of an overweight or obese elderly person will cost Medicare 6 to 17 percent more over a lifetime than treating an elderly person with a healthy weight. The same will surely be true of younger people.

The authors of the study used a measure of weight that takes into account a person's height, known as the body mass index and looked at total costs from Medicare alone for individuals covered from age 65 until death. The extra demands made of the healthcare system by overweight and obese elderly amounts to Medicare's spending on average an extra $15,000 on overweight elderly individuals and an extra $26,000 on obese individuals.

"Our research provides valuable information for why the public and health policy makers need to pay attention to the financial burden of health care for overweight Americans besides it's being just a health issue," Professor Zhou Yang at Emory University concluded. "More aggressive public health campaigns or early behavioral or policy intervention to stop the obesity epidemic could be cost-effective as well as otherwise beneficial for society."

And that is probably true. But I don't believe this is primarily an educational problem. Rather, I believe most people know they are killing themselves when they overeat, drink, and smoke. I just believe they don't care and figure the health care system will take care of the problem when the time comes.

This health care debate is a monument to what an absence of personal responsibility looks like in the real world and the cost will be staggering. After all, one's medical condition and their lifestyle won't count when calculating premiums so why not skip the gym and have a drink, hey?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skip the gym and have a drink instead - sounds like a perfect day to me!

10:08 AM  

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