What’s Your Healthcare Plan?

You’ve heard a lot about health care these past weeks, but I bet you haven’t heard this.

I was listening to an interview of Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and when asked if he had any thoughts about the health care system, he quickly responded by saying he had one thing to propose. “We should pass one law,” he said. “We should make it the law that insurance companies must insure pre-existing conditions.”

What a fabulous idea! Think about it. Currently, if you change jobs, and change insurance companies, but you had recently been diagnosed with Type II diabetes, your new insurance company won’t have anything to do with you. But if they were forced to take over the expense of caring for you, I bet they would suddenly become very interested in preventing what is a very preventable disease.

Right now, we reward people for destructive behavior. The deal is, smoke cigarettes, eat horribly, stop moving, and in 15 or 20 years, when the sludge and muck in your body brings on its premature decline, doctors and insurance companies will work hand-in -hand to put you on what I call life-support for the next 20 or 30 years– prescription meds, surgery, parts replacement, and whatever else science comes up with– until you die. And who pays for that? We do. That’s the theory of insurance. Spread that risk out as thinly as possible.

Problem is, two things:   1.  too many people are now at risk, and  2.  these drugs and treatments and surgeries are extremely expensive and show no signs of becoming more affordable. They do not follow the law of supply and demand. In this country, the demand increases by double digits each year–and so does the cost.

But if we change this one thing–no more exclusions–everything shifts. The repercussions just don’t stop. Really.

First, consider that type II diabetes and much heart disease and many, if not most, cancers are preventable–by doing the right things.

So, imagine if we were being asked by our doctors–dare I say prescribed?–to exercise and move our bodies? And get massages? And find physical strength and balance? And our insurance covered it?  We’d all RUN to a fitness facility.

And we would be out meeting people we don’t ordinarily see. Our social fabric would expand and strengthen. Entire wellness industries would thrive. Children would be taught to make good choices. We’d have alert bus drivers and pilots, air traffic controllers, construction workers, teachers. People would function on all cylinders. And that’s only half of the equation.

We’d also have to clean up our food supply, because nutrition is crucial to good health. That would require lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, picked when ripe, processed and transported minimally–which means a return to smaller farms and local eating–a movement that’s already begun.   Of course, that doesn’t work everywhere, but for as much as it does, it adds up to a profound impact on our diets.  And our soils.  If we return to smaller, more diversified farms we don’t need to use petro-chemicals on our crops and animals, all of which end up in our water supply and our ocean sea life, and us. The Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, today the size of Rhode Island, might actually rebound.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

One small change.  One enormous impact. Like so many things I’ve written about this year. I think this is the best health care plan out there.

What do you think?

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