This is not a holier than thou column. I’m not. Nor is this gloating. Healthcare needs in this country — defined by cost and results —is not something the government can resolve.
During the past two months I have spent $313 on an annual physical, a six-month dental exam and a yearly eye exam. My health insurance paid 80 percent of the physical while I picked up the entire tab for dental and vision.
At 60 years of age, here is the bottom line: I’m in excellent health per the physician, have teeth devoid of issues to the point the dentist noted he rarely sees X-rays as clean, and an optometrist that pointed out my eyes had no health problems and my vision continued to be steady.
Let me make it clear. I believe I won the DNA sweepstakes — to a degree. That said I have large bunions on both feet, a nasty hammer toe, eyesight that Mr. Magoo would be jealous of, teeth that are far from cosmetically perfect, the coordination of Jerry Lewis when he’s in acting mode, what was once severe gout seemingly in check, and despite exercising every day of my life save a few days since I was 30 I still can’t throw a ball worth beans.
I then look at my brothers — one living and one deceased — to see where they were at when they hit age 60. In our youth (defined as pre-high school) they were as skinny as a rail and I weighed more than I do today. Both made significantly more money. Both had better health insurance.
I’ve also had my share of accidents — auto and otherwise.
At age 60 I find myself in far better health than my two brothers were at that milestone.
I tipped the scales at 240 pounds at the end of my seventh grade year and then — after losing 50 pounds and keeping most of it off until a bit after high school — topped out at 320 pounds at age 29. In my 20s I also started getting cavities. Walking up a flight of stairs winded me. Now covering 6,100 plus feet in elevation gain over 22 miles and descending the likes of Mt Whitney in 13 hours over 22 miles is tiring but it doesn’t wipe me out. And the last cavity I had was 36 years ago.
I’ve never smoked. I was tricked once by some jerks into sipping alcohol. As for drugs, I never have done anything classified as illegal, avoid prescription drugs like the plague, and rarely take anything over the counter except an iron supplement.
I exercise every day. And while I eat fairly healthy I’m no Euell Gibbons.
DNA aside — my health, for good or bad, from the time I was arguably 11 years old and knew better until today — is the result of choices I have made.
I’m not exactly a disciple of any particular program or lifestyle except perhaps the one I carved out for myself. I realize bad choices have bad results and given you didn’t get there overnight it takes time to undo the impacts of such decisions. There is no quick fix or magical pill when it comes to health.
Unfortunately the entire premise of what we have today that some like to call Obamacare is akin to requiring mandatory buy ins to purchase Band-Aids so they can be placed on the chest of someone having a massive heart attack.
The issue for most Americans without healthcare wasn’t access given public health clinics and emergency rooms. The real issue is what we personally do about our health. As for paying for it, the solution carved nationally put hospitals and providers in a somewhat better position than the patient.
The way to make it truly affordable for patients as well as reasonable financial outcomes for the health care community hinged on the premise that healthy Millennials would make the “right choice” and essentially pick up the tab for those older and in worse health.
The problem is 16 percent of Americans between 25 and 34 years of age are still uninsured. That’s because they made the right choice for them.
When the cheapest policy you can buy is $200 a month and carries a $2,000 deductible and rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,000 plus while working multiple part-time jobs to tread financial water, the “adult choice” as the federal government calls buying healthcare insurance is the wrong choice.
Ask a 24 year-old Manteca worker making $24,000 a year what he thinks of it. He’s healthy but is struggling to make ends meet. The IRS penalty of $695 or 2.5% of his income is a lot less expensive. You can point out that if he develops a major medical issue he is financial toast but he’ll correctly counter paying $1,200 a year insurance premiums would make it virtually impossible for him to buy contacts and would make seeing a dentist a pipe dream.
He might look back at age 60 and regret some choices pertaining to smoking and not doing regular sustained exercise but one of those regrets won’t be the decision not to buy health insurance if for no other reason he lacked the funds in his 20s to do so and still be able to shelter, clothe and feed himself.
What ails the general health of Americans can’t be resolved with forced coverage that only serves to make sure in specific instances that healthcare providers will be paid something as opposed to not being paid.
Fine tuning Obamacare isn’t what’s needed. We need to rethink how we each approach our health.