Obama Stimulus May Harm Your Health

Betsy McCaughey at Bloomberg has outlined a provision inserted into the stimulus bill that could have dramatic ramifications for health. The bill sets up electronic tracking of your health records by the federal government and a government organization to monitor how your doctors treat you. The goal is to reduce costs associated with new and experimental care. Former HHS nominee Tom Daschle promoted this language and it comes straight from his book, which could have scary implications for the future, especially for the elderly. Read the entire article on Bloomberg to find out more.

Sadly, the current model for healthcare “reform” seems to be more government, less care. I would like to see less government, more preventative measures, and better care. The whole system needs scrapped. Tomorrow, I will blog about what one state is doing to trim costs.

Obama and the Future of Fitness

Men’s Fitness recently issued an open letter of sorts to Barack Obama as he gets ready to take the nation’s highest office. The letter challenges Obama to take the lead in getting the people of the United States healthier and fitter. Given the sobering statistics regarding healthcare costs in America, Obama must at least do something. You can read the complete list of suggestions, but I want to discuss a few.

-Set standards for school lunches- This is absolutely necessary, given that most kids eat crap everyday at school. My stepdaughter’s school has something fried on a bun nearly every single day with pizza on Fridays. This is scandalous in an age of childhood and adult obesity. If you make creative and healthy recipes backed by government funding (rather than just handing out free cheese and low grade hamburgers), change will happen.

-Re-instate gym class (and I would add, make it count)- Schools have eliminated gym class so now the little exercise children would get is gone. In the 50’s the USA got serious about math and science education and it helped us surpass all other nations in technology. Let’s do the same with health and fitness. And it starts with gym class where kids get active, learn fun ways of being fit, and receive the knowledge and encouragement to keep it for life.

-Deduct money for fitness- A bill in Congress proposes allowing tax deductions for gym equipment and fees. This makes sense. Give incentives for fitness. I think deducting so many health related items a year would be helpful as well (e.g. supplements).

It’s important that we keep Obama’s feet to the fire on the health issue. Our nation needs to get fitter and healthier. While I don’t expect the government to solve our problems, it can at least get out of the way and create incentives for better health.

My Employer Taking Health Seriously

My employer, which I’ve noted in the past has taken positive steps to improve the health of its employees (here) is at it again. Now, I’ve found out that they have quietly been working with unhealthy employees to try to improve their overall health. Last spring we filled out a health survey that determined our health in several categories. Evidentally, they’ve singled out people from that survey who need a helping hand and once a week they bring in an expert from the Cleveland Clinic to teach them health and fitness tips. I only know of a few people in the program (it’s kept pretty quiet, I assume to avoid embarassment), but overall the results have been amazing.

Although they are probably concerned with the bottom line primarily (healthcare costs are ridiculous), I applaud this effort. My employer is taking wellness and health seriously and actually doing more than just talking. I’m incredibly proud of them!

Ten Dollars to Lower Healthcare Costs

Yep, that’s right. According to a non-profit group called Trust for America’s Health, an investment of 10 dollars per person dedicated to community health and fitness programs could save 16 billion annually. While the initial investment would be huge, if it could truly save that much, this option would be worth pursuing.

Doctors for the Healthy?

Jesus said, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Luke 5:31 RSV)

Jesus used this saying in a symbolic sense, to justify his associations with sinners. In other words, people who needed him most were those who were spiritually sick, not the righteous. However, his words reveal a a literal truth about medicine in the past and certainly in the contemporary Western world: doctors are for the sick. As I listened to this verse in the Gospel readings at mass recently, it got me thinking: why aren’t doctors trained in a way to advise the healthy in staying that way? I think this illustrates what is wrong with our entire healthcare system. We have elaborate structures and policies designed to treat diseases, but preventing illness is a lonely endeavor with little or no structure or support. My insurance program has all sorts of rules and programs to treat illnesses, but very little to promote actual wellness. I have a great doctor who is open to wellness, but I know of people whose doctors have literally walked out of the room when they mentioned alternative treatments that were actually working! It seems to me that as long as doctors, insurance companies, and most health institutions ignore wellness, our healthcare system will continue to spiral out of control.