Putting Your Healthcare in Perspective
The financial reality in 21st century America is you’ll be self-insuring much of your future healthcare costs.
So you’ll need to rethink your healthcare needs – and how you’ll pay for them.
One way to make better use of our inefficient and dangerous healthcare system is to gain a better perspective on your actual medical needs.
That can be hard to do when you’re barraged with TV ads about “diseases” that weren’t even considered diseases a decade ago.
And when your doctors may be padding their bills with tests and procedures you don’t truly need to enhance their incomes or protect themselves from a potential lawsuit.
When it comes to our healthcare, we’ve been conditioned to think that “more is always better”.
It isn’t (see Our Healthcare Sucks for more on this).
But gaining perspective in such a consumption-driven environment requires you to step back and do some serious thinking.
And who has time for that?
What’s Your Family’s Risk Profile?
Does someone in your family have a chronic disease that puts them at increased risk for heart attack and stroke?
If so, you need to plan for such events more than someone without such a higher risk profile (see MedSmart Patients).
What you do – or don’t do – during the first few minutes in a medical emergency may dictate the outcome of that event more than the delayed interventions of EMTs and hospital personnel.
But few of us are prepared to take charge in such a life-or-death situation.
And that’s a problem.
If such an emergency happens, it’ll be more than a problem. It’ll be a crisis – a critical one (see “Redefining America’s Healthcare Crisis“).
No Panic Button Required
So there you have the one extreme of a medical emergency – where fast action and vigilant advocacy are essential.
Yet this seldom happens in real life because we don’t like thinking about such things. This means we have no perspective on them when they occur.
Panic’s no help to anyone.
It’s natural to be alarmed and frightened in an emergency.
But planning for such an event – maybe even rehearsing for it – may keep you from panicking and doing more harm than good.
A Change of Mindset
When it comes to the rest of our healthcare needs, however, we tend to over-react, not under-react as we do in emergencies.
We all know we’ll die someday, but generally not what will ultimately do us in.
We all hope to sidestep disease and delay the inevitable. There’s no more primal instinct.
But it’s increasingly expensive to buy yourself more time. And you and your family will bear more of this financial burden as health insurance in America continues to erode.
This erosion will continue – and accelerate – via both so-called “entitlement reforms” that reduce Medicare and Medicaid coverage and private sector shifting of uncontrolled (meaning unmanaged) healthcare costs to employees and the self-insured.
There will come a point – more sooner than later – when families across America will have to do the same kind of cost-benefit analysis as insurance actuaries do now.
And it’s fast approaching.
It’d be better if we did it for ourselves than impose this burden on our loved ones.
That requires a change of mindset about the terms on which you choose to exit this life.
Denial is just becoming too expensive a luxury in our emerging world of self-insuring our healthcare.
And it’s a luxury more and more Americans simply won’t be able to afford in a few short years – not when your family’s share of prolonging your life can easily reach into six figures.
“We all die”
Which is why I was impressed with the words of a medical researcher in describing the results of a study he conducted on the impact of blood pressure management on human longevity.
This was a first of its kind study because it required decades to pass to compare actual deaths in those taking blood pressure medications with those taking a dummy placebo.
This researcher – Dr. John B. Kostis of New Jersey’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School – obviously slept through the class on medical mumbo-jumbo.
His plain-spoken analysis offers some refreshing candor – and perspective – as you consider your healthcare future:
“Everyone has to die from something…
“If you don’t die from CVD (cardiovascular disease) then you have more chance to die from other conditions…
“Preventing one stroke (by managing blood pressure better) has many implications other than life expectancy; stroke is a terrible thing…
“We all die, and if you don’t die from heart disease you have the opportunity of dying from something else. Immortality hasn’t been achieved yet in humans…
“It’s better to live an extra year, then die from cancer.”*
How’s that for perspective?
Prevention of heart attacks and strokes is important. And blood pressure control is crucial for lowering your risk for these medical emergencies – and possibly premature death.
But you will die. It’s guaranteed.
So maybe you should start thinking more seriously about how you spend your remaining time. And about how you’ll handle whatever medical challenges life throws your way.
Because few of us can afford not to.
*First data to show antihypertensive therapy prolongs life. HeartWire. www.theheart.org. 12/20/11
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This article is provided for educational and informational purposes only.
It does not constitute medical advice, and should not be relied upon as such.