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Health care debate being framed wrong

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POSTED September 1, 2009 2:29 a.m.
Much ado is being made of the United States infant mortality rate in the crisis du jour debate involving health care.  

The United States – based on United Nations statistics – comes in at 33rd worldwide with an infant mortality rate of 6.3 per 1,000 births. Iceland tops the list with 2.9 per 1,000 followed closely by Singapore at 3.0. Rounding out the top 10 are Japan, Sweden, Norway, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and South Korea.

Coming in last at 160.3 deaths per 1,000 births is Sierra Leone that barely edged out Afghanistan at 157.0 per 1,000.

Somehow having Uncle Sam put in place national health care is going to lower this rate. That is expensive wishful thinking.

One major contributing factor to mortality is prenatal care. That – by the way – doesn’t just mean doctor visits. It means moms taking care of their bodies by not doing drugs, smoking, and drinking. The top 10 countries for the best infant mortality rates all happen to have miniscule drug problems. Does it surprise you – as an example – that Singapore with strict rules for people to follow such as lashing for spitting gum on the street – has the second lowest rate in the world? There is an extremely high sense of person responsibility to the community and to your obligations.

The sad truth is there has been access to health care for those most vulnerable – as in the most impoverished – when it comes to certain needs such a prenatal care through free clinics. If you don’t bother to access it or heed warnings all of the national programs in the world aren’t going to reduce mortality rates.

Cost is a major contributing factor for those who aren’t impoverished. What drives up the cost? It is more than just the current bogeyman of health care – insurance companies. Drug babies require a lot of expensive care. It also doesn’t help that we’re all guilty to a degree of behavior that puts us at-risk for major health care costs whether it is diet or unnecessary risk taking.

One major factor in health care that doesn’t get a lot of attention is automobile accidents that killed 42,236 people and injured another 2.9 million in 2005 alone. The overall cost of those accidents was $230 billion of which more than half were medical related.

Paying more attention to driving when we’re behind the wheel and slowing down would probably put a much more sizeable dent in health care costs than any national plan. So would not smoking, doing drugs or drinking during pregnancy just as not smoking and doing drugs would do for general health.

Anything that weakens the immune system like drugs is a health killer. What would the bottom line be if just 25 percent of the population starts exercising more and paying attention to eating the right things and just 25 percent of the drug users stopped taking them? How many beds and services would that free up? Better yet, how much would it lower costs to make health care more accessible for those caught between not being poor enough and not having enough money?

People in remote areas of the Philippines would sometimes hike for two days with their kids to get a free polio shot offered through Rotary International. It is a vaccine that cost Rotary a few years back less than 25 cents. Rotary tried the same thing in the United States as they did in Third World countries and got almost no one to show up even though they offered free rides. By the way, that same polio vaccine costs a doctor in this country in excess of $25 due to liability issues as there is an extremely slight chance you can contract polio by taking it.

Foundation Health – started by doctors before they sold – had a simple plan back in the 1970s. Co-payments would go up each time you failed to have routine visits to detect problems before they became major whether it was medical, dental or vision.

Foundation would pick up 100 percent of a lot of costs if you had a physical every year. Miss one, it dropped to 95 percent. Missed twice, it went to 90 percent. You get the picture. The same was proposed for dental and eye care.
Foundation Health couldn’t get it off the ground anywhere because employee groups thought it was too intrusive.

What we have today with runaway health care is the direct result of people not doing the responsible thing on their own and expecting to do as they please and then demanding a magic pill – or surgery – to cure all wrongs that more often than not are a direct result of their behavior or lifestyle.

Until we address those flaws in our current day culture, you can have all the health care reform you want and it won’t change the bottom-line.
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