The Affordable Care Act (or if you prefer, Obamacare or Pelosicare or…), our new publicly funded health insurance, is supposed to insure all citizens against financial ruin if they have or if they develop health problems.
While we may or may not think that’s a noble goal, whether it will or will not successfully accomplish its goals, one thing it is not going to inspire is better health. It may provide better care for some when they do have health problems, but it will not provide better health.
If feeling better every day, moving better with less discomfort and having more energy aren’t motivating people to make healthier choices, then surely an insurance plan isn’t going to. Nor is that its purpose.
My point is: The cost of medical services is rising so fast due to demand. We need more and more care, which costs more and more money. All these loud shrill pro and con debates about this new plan are completely missing the most important fact. The only reason we have a cost of health care problem is that we, as a society, are not taking care of ourselves. Just looking for the most efficient way to pay for that sad fact is ridiculously misdirected effort. Any insurance plan—public or private—is only trying to treat the symptoms. The cause of this disease is unhealthy lifestyle choices. The cause of this infection is cured by better individual responsibility and a healthy dose of self discipline.
Yes, there are many causes of poor health that are not preventable. They are due to just plain bad luck. And yes, we as a just society should want to help when needed in those situations. But if we eliminated all the costly health problems that are self induced by lack of responsible individual choices, the demand would be dramatically reduced (along with the waistlines of the fattest nation on earth). There would then be competition to provide efficient diagnosis and treatment. Costs for these would plummet.
The relevant question is not whether the insurance coverage should be public or private. The question is how to inspire more people to be more responsible. Too blunt? Absolutely not. The irresponsibility of many who have a lifestyle consisting of unhealthy eating, excessive alcohol and, most importantly, inactivity is costing all of us.
What can we do? Start with ourselves, of course. It is not complicated. And I’m not going to outline what steps you should take, because anyone who wants to start improving can. This is the information age. It’s all available to you. In addition to improving yourself, set a better example for your sons and daughters. They are probably less physically active than you were, and their unhealthy outcomes as adults are going to reflect that.
After you do all that, come join those of us who at least try, and shout along with us: We don’t want to pay our money for your irresponsibility!
Hey, maybe this new public plan will crank up some peer pressure and have an unintended consequence of actual improvement in what really matters.
But not unless you participate.