How to Reduce Health Care Costs

Call me a Pollyanna, but I believe, deep down, that reforming the problem formerly known as our nation’s health care system is actually doable without having to ruffle the political feathers of our friends and neighbors on both sides of the fence.

For some of my friends and colleagues, what immediately comes to mind when discussing health care and the rising costs of insurance premiums is tort reform. But, as soon as I hear it mentioned, it crosses through all of the synapses coursing through my brain, it passes right back out again, with a parting thought of not in this lifetime. The road to tort reform is too controversial, too much of a stretch, even for my optimistic world view.

But there are other, easier, softer ways to change the health care system that are well within our reach. Here are just a handful of them:

*Return the family physician to his former glory. Remember the days when patients paid their doctors outright, even if they HAD insurance (which reimbursed them for their expenses)? Those were the days when the family doc would send you on to a specialist, which actually WAS a specialist, when you needed it.

*Baby boomers could use the knowledge they’ve got to take better care of themselves. There. I said it. When reports that tell us that 70% of all doctors’ visits are lifestyle related, one has to question the sanity of such a situation. We’ve all read articles asserting that baby boomers KNOW what they need to keep themselves healthy, yet many of them are not as healthy as their parents were. Perhaps we have the mindset that we’ll change our habits only when given a grim prognosis, not before. The problem is that quality of life is sacrificed all of those years we abuse our bodies; the diagnosis of heart disease or lung cancer is merely the icing on the proverbial cake.

*We can do what we can to manage our weight and exercise our bodies. Obesity and lack of exercise are the root causes of too many afflictions to list, although I’ll give a rundown of some of the biggies: diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure, stroke, you get the idea.

*Clinics will follow the lead of the Cleveland Clinic, which offers incentives to those doctors whose patients’ numbers (as in blood pressure, cholesterol level, glucose level, etc) go down (MSNBC). Let’s face it, the way things stand now, doctors don’t believe they have the time to educate the public about prevention, they’re too busy trying to fix what’s broken.

The problem seems to be not so much with actual health care, per se, but with how we, the citizenry, take care of our health. Hopefully, a serendipitous change will occur amidst all of this debate in Washington and in our local communities; one that puts the focus where it needs to be on doing what we can to better our own health, as well as that of those we love.