[image courtesy of GeekPhilosopher.com]
Healthcare costs are going through the roof – even with a new healthcare bill. No one – who speaks the truth – disputes it nor are any of us (whether left or right of political center) immune to the long-term and mostly negative implications of this trend. Our current healthcare system spells increasing challenges for every business, small or large, start-up or multi–national, and for every individual whether self-employed or part of the workforce. Indeed, we – that amorphous cluster of consumers, providers, insurers, politicians and theoreticians – have painted ourselves into a proverbial corner where we must pay for health care coverage that offers us less and less coverage and protection for higher and higher premiums. And this conundrum, at least the part that I have described here, does not yet address other things in Pandora’s box – the fact that in our lifetime there will be 150 million Americans who will be over 50 years of age for the first time in history. Yes, one person every 7 seconds joins this group and the implications are staggering. It also does not include all of us who fall through the COBRA cracks, and those who, even with the provision of the new Healthcare Bill cannot qualify for it or cannot afford the protection it offers.
The purpose of this article, however, is not to belabor the obvious nor to argue with those who believe the bill has gone too far or not far enough. That truth will, even to the most recalcitrant among us, will make itself obvious very soon. Instead, my purpose here is to identify some of the trends – both negative and positive – that I believe we would be wise to track, especially if we want to ever dig ourselves out of this mess.
The first trend to watch is that no matter how high or low healthcare costs, our current system continues to offer, at it’s very best, reactive medical support. From service provider, insurer and the patient/customer standpoints, this system is designed to deal with effects and not causes. In short, something happens, we go to a doctor or a hospital or some other approved medical or psychological facility, we get fixed or we don’t, and our insurance company decides to pay or not to pay all the costs associated with treating our accident or illness.
What’s wrong with this trend? Not everything, but a lot! The ‘not everything’ includes the fact that as long as we are alive physical “stuff” happens and therefore it is essential to have a system that helps us deal with it. Beyond this necessary service, however, there’s a lot wrong. For example, our current health care strategies address the effects of accidents and illnesses at their most challenging and costly junctures. In short, treating an illness or a disease after it makes itself obvious generally results in costs that are many times what we would have to pay to put preventative measures in place. As a result, the system perpetuates itself and insures – pun intended – that the same circumstances will keep occurring over and over again. In short, as long as we allow our current healthcare system to focus on providing services that deal with effects rather than causes, we will face reduced coverage and escalating healthcare costs, factors that place an increasingly larger burden on Medicare, Medicaid and on organizations and individuals. They will also continute drive larger numbers of us out of the system or force us to make relatively unconscionable choices between covering our healthcare costs and paying for other life essentials.
So that’s the bad news. Is there any good news? Yes, this unpleasant circumstance is forcing more organizations and individuals to take a much harder, closer look at the whole system. This is a very positive trend. In addition to making health care providers and insurance companies more accountable, rising costs are prompting more of us as ‘care receivers’ to become better educated on options and better informed on alternative medicines and procedures and their ramifications.
Today’s healthcare costs are also prompting another trend. More of us are paying more attention to our well-being at the preventative rather than the critical or repair stage. As a result, we are discovering that good maintenance and early intervention promotes better results and much lower physical, emotional and financial costs. In addition, this healthcare crisis is forcing more individuals and companies to do more than pay lip service to nutrition, exercise regimens, early detection practices and stress reduction strategies and technologies. Finally, the healthcare dilemma is forcing us to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about our lifestyles, about our pace, purpose and whether or not we have enough balance between our professional and personal lives.
What are some of the trends that relate to early detection practices and stress reduction strategies? Well, the study of stress reduction has progressed light years in just the last several years. We’ve known for a while, of course, that good foods, the right amount of exercise, enough rest, good emotional balance, play, a passion for what we do and a sufficient amount of love and intimacy in our lives go a long way toward ensuring better health. In the last few years we have also learned a number of other important things. Gene tagging has taught us that even with a good health consciousness some of us are more genetically disposed than others to certain illnesses and diseases. As a result, these early warning sciences and technologies are providing greater numbers of us with the opportunity to take preventative measures to avoid or reduce debilitating disease and illness. Of course, if we are not careful, these same technologies will be used to raise our rates or run us out of the system. So we have to stay on our toes. However, if properly used, where medical cures are not yet available, these advance warning systems can provide us with the option of adjusting our lifestyles to minimize our risks and maximize our potential.
In addition, groundbreaking research on stress reduction has begun to confirm a long held supposition – that the body actually has two brains – the one brain in our head and a second in our chest. Indeed, scientists now verify that the heart is the seat of a significant amount of wisdom – and not just in an allegorical sense – and that when we listen to our “heart’s brain”, when we learn to control our emotions – particularly but not exclusively our negative emotions – we control our variable heart rate. What’s so important about this? When we learn to control our variable heart rate, we dramatically improve our heath, enhance our intellectual and physical performance and, in the end, take some very significant steps toward taming the Eight Hundred Pound Healthcare Gorilla.
What’s the bottom line? The passage of the most recent healthcare legislation is only the beginning. We have to keep working the issue and with much greater understanding, discipline and effectiveness. Indeed, as long as we continue to rely exclusively on a healthcare system for our well being that is primarily reactive rather than preventative, we will continue to find ourselves mired in this no-win proposition of increasing costs and decreasing coverage. By comparison, the sooner we become more responsible for our own health, the sooner our health care system will change. In short, my advice – to paraphrase management guru, Peter Drucker, ‘if you want to know the future of healthcare, let’s invent it together!’
Optimal health and wholeness is not just a personal choice nor an economic conversation, it literally is how we fulfill the promise of our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and Bill of Rights and make life better for all of the people, all of the time!