Live healthy, pay less.

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Senior Couple Running In The Woods

President Obama has stated that his number one domestic agenda priority is a radical overhaul of our health care system. The various proposals being discussed are projected to cost well in excess of $1 trillion over the next ten years.

It should be obvious that we can’t afford such “reform.”

But the debate over costs misses what I think is a very important point.

If you listen to KTBB at all, you hear segments we produce for the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler called ‘Health Connection.’ It recently struck me how often the doctors whom we feature on Health Connection will say, in response to a question on this or that health problem, that proper diet and exercise constitute the best prevention and the best treatment.

And that got me thinking.

You would never expect State Farm to pay a claim for a burned up engine because you never changed the oil. But we somehow expect Blue Cross to pay for a heart bypass when you have allowed yourself to be 70 pounds overweight and addicted to tobacco.

You have no problem with State Farm pricing your auto policy based on your driving record but you don’t want Blue Cross to price your health coverage based on your 44-inch waist and your pack-a-day smoking habit.

If you have a job with employer-paid health coverage or if you are on Medicare, there is no economic penalty for poor health habits in the same way that there is an economic penalty for bad driving habits.

When your co-worker’s arteries plaque up and cause heart disease, it’s no skin off his economic nose.

But that has to change. We have to get over the idea that it’s unfair to make those who don’t take care of themselves suffer the resulting economic consequences.

But Paul, what about those poor people who are just not healthy and can’t help it?

Well, to that I say those born with health problems constitute a manageable minority of cases. The vast majority of people are born with bodies that, given reasonable “maintenance,” will last an actuarial lifetime. The non-smoker who gets lung cancer can be affordably priced into the premium for cancer coverage, particularly if the smoker is made to pay for his/her disproportionate contribution to the aggregate risk.

It is diabetes and heart disease that lie at the root of most of our runaway costs. Lung, breast and colon cancers are up there, too. The majority of these problems are avoidable through good nutrition, good exercise, avoidance of known risk factors and good preventive care. (Yes, they have established a dietary and exercise link to the dramatic increase in breast cancer).

I think it’s really this simple Live healthy and we can afford health care. Keep eating like pigs while doing no exercise and a $1 trillion health care overhaul will accomplish nothing.

The collectivist approach has a terrible record. We are way too collectivist with respect to health care already and it’s not working. On the current trajectory, health care will simultaneously become ruinously expensive and unacceptably scarce.

Put people back in charge of the decisions that affect the cost of health care and we’ll end up with a much more competitive provider environment on the supply side and a much higher quality consumer on the demand side.

And we’ll all feel and look a lot better in the bargain.

Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of Gleiser Communications, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The Team FM & KYZS in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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3 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Paul,

    While I don’t dispute the validity in much of what you’ve written, there may be more to it than that.

    A good friend, an Amish Bishop, was in the habit of making periodic trips to some of the outlying congregations in Tennessee by bicycle. Some were 90 miles away, and yet the one way trip was always completed in one day.

    Since he was basically the same age as myself, I always marveled at his stamina. About 10 years ago, he died of a heart attack (at 54 years of age), even though he didn’t do any of the things you cited as being detrimental to good health.

    Doing the do’s and not doing the don’ts doesn’t always equal success in increased longevity.

  2. Joe says:

    We all think that free market health care will manage itself, but I believe it’s more like gas companies. You need it, they have it. Pay up sucker. When my 1 year old son was hospitalized for 10 days with a collapsed lung, it wasn’t due to his poor health habits. But, I still received a bill for $84,000 dollars. How do I pay that? I was lucky enough to have state paid CHIP and I only paid about $1,000 out of pocket. My point being, when an industry has you under it’s thumb, it’s no longer free market, it’s blackmail.

  3. Harold says:

    I’ll think universal healthcare is a wonderful thing.
    We need a healthcare reform. That’s true. But do we need a government healthcare system? My bee we should ask people in the US which have to deal whit a government healthcare system. Ask the veterans how happy they are whit their system.

    Has anyone an idea what this liberal government healthcare system is??? I mean who can participate? What does this healthcare do? I mean is it free parking in front of a hospital? Or can I see actually a nurse? Is it even better and I can see a doctor? And if so how often? And how much will free parking at the hospital cost me?
    You see I am confused. We talking already about Trillions of dollars and no one can actually tell me what it is and to whom its applies. All what I hear are dreams, assumptions but no one is on the same page. I really tried to educate my self in this matter. No web could tell me. No youtube speech.
    Trillions of dollars for nothing? How much will it really cost when they finally know what it actually will be.
    And I thought since Mr. Obama promised it so hard and the House is completely ruled by the liberals, it would be a piece of cake to create a universal health care. I think that the liberals also don’t know what they talking about and all this is only eyewash, window dressing so the people on the street have something to talk and do not check what is really going on.
    Just a thought of a foreign idiot, who has no idea what’s going on.

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