Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is our healthcare system making us fat?

The growth in healthcare costs and the growth in America's waistlines follow the same path. Up. Yesterday, I asked the question, "Is our healthcare system making us fat?"

Today, I will explain. To be clear, I don't blame the healthcare system for the growing obesity epidemic. I do blame the healthcare system for not making dramatic changes in the 1990s when we realized the managed care revolution wasn't actually helping people get healthier. I blame it again in the year 2000 when the trend was clear. By 2008, we have no excuse. We are spending more and more money for less and less health. We have more healthcare. We do not have more health.

The scary part, to me, is there is no end in sight. Much like the dual-eligibles that are plaguing state budgets all across the country, the obese and extremely obese are expensive. As they age (assuming they get a chance to age), I can't begin to fathom what it will cost to care for the extremely obese elderly. My Grandfather is nearly 90 and completely dependent on my Father and a team of aides for everything he needs. He is too skinny, honestly, as he continues on his slow journey toward death. If he were 200 pounds, my Dad couldn't care for him at home. A nursing home would costs thousands and thousands a year and we'd have no choice. 

The system is broken. We cannot continue to spend more and more money on worsening outcomes. We can't afford to give gastric bypass surgery to 40% of our population. We can't afford the risks and costs of whatever promised weight loss pill a drug company will come up with. While we have the Affordable Care Act (health reform), it will not fix the problem.

The problem, dear people, is all up to you and to me. To our neighbors, to our families, to our communities. We, the people, are the only ones with the power to "bend the curve" on healthcare costs.  We, the people, have to stand beside one another and help each other lose weight and get healthy.

We the people, when we work together, can do anything we set our minds to. Now is the time.

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