August 21, 2009

On Health Care and Health Insurance

In 1752 Benjamin Franklin helped create the first insurance company in the United States, The Philadelphia Contributionship, with the commitment to "protecting homes and the well-being of people who live in them."

Can health insurance companies live up to this standard and make a profit?

People follow orders very well

Milgram's Experiment and Zimbardo's Stanford Prision Experiment made it clear that people can lose touch with humanity when following orders. Similarly when for profit companies are tasked with saving a life or making a buck, life does not always win.

In the 1960s Ford senior management knew the fuel system of the Ford Pinto was defective, and that the car was effectively a death trap. However, Ford senior management decided to not upgrade the fuel system and instead to pay $200k to families of the victims who would die in the Ford Pinto deathtrap, because it would be cheaper than fixing the problem.

Insurance Policy Rescission

Wendell Potter, a former health insurance executive, testified in July to the Senate Commerce committee about about health insurance companies and the practice known as policy rescission:

To help meet Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations, insurers routinely dump policyholders who are less profitable or who get sick. Insurers have several ways to cull the sick from their rolls. One is policy rescission. They look carefully to see if a sick policyholder may have omitted a minor illness, a pre-existing condition, when applying for coverage, and then they use that as justification to cancel the policy, even if the enrollee has never missed a premium payment.

Everything you learned in school about food nutrition was wrong

For over 20 years teachers have been using a graphic called the food pyramid to teach students about nutrition, but the food pyramid graphic is misleading and flawed.

The agency that came up with the nutritional guidelines, the USDA, had strong ties to the food industry. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine won a lawsuit proving that:

the majority of the committee that reviews and updates the federal dietary guidelines had strong financial ties to the meat, dairy or egg industries.

Natural Healing vs Pharmaceutical Healing

Modern medicine tends to favor treatment for chronic illness with pharmaceutical drugs, but often we can heal without ingesting pharmaceutical drugs. Take for example heart disease onset by high levels of LDL cholesterol (bad). You can lower your LDL cholesterol level through diet and exercise, but doctors and patients often choose to treat high cholesterol levels with statin drugs. Unfortunately statin drugs have side-effects, including possible kidney damage and muscle damage.

One way to lower the cost of health care is to focus on making our nation healthier.

A Renewed Purpose

An improved healthcare system would include nutritional education that goes to great lengths to avoid influence by the food industry. Nutrition would be part of our education system just like physical education is. Nutritional education would include how to preserve our bodies by eating well, and how to heal our body when it breaks down.

Doctor's would not have a mandate to save everyone at all costs, but they would be empowered to treat their patients without recourse for referring too many patients to specialists, or for trying novel treatments when patients are open to them.

We should have peace of mind that all reasonable options will be explored if we are chronically ill, and we should be offered the support we need to leave this world in peace within the comfort of our own home.

Change is Inevitable

Our expectation is that health insurance provides health care and reduces the risk of becoming bankrupt as a result of needing health care. However, the practice of policy rescission by health insurance companies means that when you need health care the most your health insurance company is looking for ways to cancel your policy.

Health care premiums are doubling every 10 years but our average income is not, this means every year health insurance becomes less affordable in the US.

When it comes to the US health care system, change is inevitable, the only variables are how much it will cost us to make the necessary changes, and how bad it will get before everyone recognizes the system is broke.

President Obama on why we need health care reform

On August 16th President Obama wrote an Op-Ed piece, in the New York Times, titled <a href="">why we need health care reform.

No one in America should go broke because they get sick...

In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain. But for all the scare tactics out there, what’s truly scary — truly risky — is the prospect of doing nothing. If we maintain the status quo, we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. Premiums will continue to skyrocket. Our deficit will continue to grow. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against sick people.

That is not a future I want for my children, or for yours. And that is not a future I want for the United States of America.

I agree with President Obama, doing nothing is not an option.