By Darrel Crain, D.C.
Many years ago Emerson pointed out that “The first wealth is health.” Notice he didn’t say health might be something to think about some day maybe if you are in the right mood and have a few spare minutes and there is nothing good on TV.
No, Emerson called it first wealth. He wanted us to understand that health deserves to get the highest priority over everything else. He was referring not only to the abundance of life that comes from enjoying physical and emotional health, but also the serious savings of major money for those who strive to live in a state of well being.
I am told that in certain parts of the world, the doctor only gets paid to the extent the patient stays well. If the patient becomes sick and requires treatment, it is on the doctor’s tab. Some version of this revolutionary concept deserves trying out here in the United States, where medical care and its costs are killing us.
Where the term Catastrophic Medical Insurance once referred to a particular insurance category, it now pretty well sums up the whole thing. We have all seen the headlines, “Entire healthcare system in crisis!” Translated this means, “Mortgage your house and send in all your money or you die!”
Many Americans only realize the catastrophic state of the medical system after they receive a letter in the mail. This recent conversation in the Jones household provides a generic example.
“Honey, why are we getting this hospital bill for $48,000?”
“Oh, remember last week when I took Johnny to the emergency room after the soccer game because he sprained his ankle?”
“Well, the lady at the hospital said they no longer accept our insurance plan.”
“And that justifies charging us the price of a brand new BMW convertible for a couple of x rays, two pain pills and an elastic bandage?”
“I don’t know, she just said they would bill us.”
Many folks are indeed keeping up with the Joneses in this regard. It is reported that the majority of personal bankruptcies in this country are created by medical expenses exploding through the roof. The stress from soaring medical bills has also been blamed for the destruction of more than a few marriages. All of this leads to additional rounds of ill health, doctor appointments, dangerous psychoactive drug prescriptions and so on.
Medical insurance, of course, was originally developed many years ago by a few industrious medical doctors who figured out how people could pool their money so the doctors could get paid for medical services. The idea of insurance for this purpose proved wildly popular; so much so that it seems more money flows to the administration of insurance these days than is spent on providing actual medical procedures. This is known as progress.
In the old days, we could fairly blame doctors for the spiraling costs of medical care. “I got the bill for my surgery. Now I know what those doctors were wearing masks for,” James H. Boren once remarked.
Today, however, doctors are paid only cents on the dollar by the insurance companies. This upside down state of affairs has in turn been used by the drug companies to justify paying doctors incentives and rewards for prescribing their drugs. Unfortunately, this leads to higher drug prices, which requires more rounds of cutbacks in diagnostic testing and other medical services.
News reports have pointed to the rising price of drugs as the major reason medical care costs people an arm and a leg these days. Medications used as directed are recognized as a leading cause of preventable death each year. The medical literature tells us that many current, standard drug protocols are linked to the rise of chronic illness and autoimmune disorders in our country.
Suppose we were to overturn the current system and make the price of medical insurance premiums fully contingent on people’s quality of life and health. Do you think profound changes would occur at the speed of light in our health delivery system? Do you think the whole focus of the medical world would instantly shift to helping people understand how to take care of their own health?
What if surgeons were paid to help their patients avoid surgery? Would there suddenly be a steep reduction in the number of unnecessary knee surgeries, spinal surgeries, hysterectomies and all the rest if doctors no longer had monetary incentives to cut whenever possible?
Suppose incentives for doctors to push pills were removed, and instead they earned financial rewards and bonuses each time they helped a patient solve underlying health problems and thus avoid drug dependency?
Researchers now credit the startling recent reduction in the number of women with breast cancer to a steep reduction in women’s use of hormone drugs starting a few years back. One can only imagine how many other happy surprises are in store for us as we abandon the illusion that pharmaceutical pills are the best way to treat all our ills.
To quote John Lennon, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
I say the bigger the crisis, the greater the opportunity for massive change. Let’s get well, America, let’s get well beyond medicine.
Dr. Darrel Crain is a Family Chiropractor and Natural Health Writer practicing in San Diego, California. He is the President of the CCA San Diego County District and can be reached at 619-445-0100
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