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You are the best way to keep health care costs low
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Your body is your temple.

The paraphrasing of Corinthians 6:19 is another example of how the great books of religion — the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, the Adi Granth, the Book of Mormon, the Tao Te Ching, the Upanishads, the Buddhist Sutras, and others — have practical and invaluable reference points on how best to live life regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof.

And as funny as it may seem, if you want to reduce the high cost of health care that is now equal to 17.4 percent of this nation’s gross national product as well as increase its effectiveness you might just want to adopt the philosophy of the good books.

The point was driven home to me 28 years ago by a man who may not be particularly religious but he believed in the Hippocratic Oath he swore to follow.

Dr. George Scarmon — a general practitioner in Lincoln — at the time had about 60 percent of the Roseville Hospital inpatient census in his care. It was because of his commitment not to refuse Medi-Cal patients. This was back following the Jerry Brown 1.0 governorship marked by a South Tahoe’s small claims court case awarding a hospital possession of the governor’s 1974 Plymouth for failing to pay an $808 Medi-Cal claim. The events leading up to that bit of one upmanship of the state included Medi-Cal payments being delayed for as long as seven months and then the state paying less than what they agreed to do, prompting many physicians to stop seeing Medi-Cal patients.

At the time I picked George as a physician I hadn’t been to a doctor since I was 8 years old save for four trips to the emergency room — two for bicycle crashes, one from being T-boned while driving, and the other for having a building collapse on me.

Part of my reason for not going to a doctor even for a physical had everything to do with not wanting to be embarrassed. Much like the person who hires someone to clean their house and then spends an entire day madly trying to make it look like they don’t need a maid because they don’t want to be embarrassed, I didn’t go to a doctor until I went from 320 pounds down to 190 pounds.

George gave me a full-fledged physical.

He was aware of my dropping weight on my own and becoming — at the time — an avid bicyclist logging 10,000 miles a year in addition to Jazzercise classes. He grilled me about what I was eating and drinking and suggested I stop drinking diet soda from aluminum cans given there were some studies out there suggesting the aluminum interacting with the sweetener could help trigger the onset of Alzheimer’s. Then he looked at my feet.

Without saying anything else, he told me he wanted to have a podiatrist look at my feet. When I asked him why, he told me he wanted him to look at the bunions and I’d find the reason why. He added he wanted to see me after the podiatrist visit before I did anything.

I went to the podiatrist and then scheduled a follow-up appointment with George.

To say I was a bit apprehensive was an understatement.

George cut to the chase when he walked into the exam room asking what the podiatrist told me.

Thinking he was going to confirm I needed surgery, I proceeded to give him the blow by blow.

He then asked whether I was told there was a 10 percent chance something could go wrong or there was a good chance the bunions would come back after 10 years or so if I had surgery.

When I replied in the negative, he then moved in for the kill: “Did he ask you whether it was bothering you or whether you were managing with it OK?”

I answered no. George asked me whether the bunions were bothering me given I was bicycling using cleats that due to what was available were fairly narrow on my wide feet made wider by the bunions. I said except on rides of 80 miles or more on hot days, they really didn’t hurt.

He then told me I was fine and I didn’t need surgery.

So I asked him why he bothered to refer me to a specialist.

He told me so I would understand something that was extremely important — no one, not even a medical physician, knows your body better than you. He said he figured I wasn’t into body perfect meaning just because my body such as my feet wasn’t the “expected norm” of society I saw no reason to alter it.  But he wanted to make sure I didn’t do invasive things to my body — whether it was taking medication for pain if I could learn to deal with it or surgery for things such as bunions if they weren’t interfered with my being active.

His bottom line: If you take care of your body, exercise, eat right, and find ways to remain active despite little aches and pains or even having things as bone growth where it shouldn’t be you’re better off than relying on “magical” pills and surgeons.

I’ve tried to follow his advice for the past 28 years. I don’t always eat right and I may get a little carried away with exercise but the philosophy he drove home with one $100 referral to a specialist has probably saved myself and insurance firms tens of thousands of dollar if not more.

If we all acted like we just have one body — which is indeed the case — health care costs would not be out of control.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.