A new report from the National Research Council had some very interesting findings, findings that continue to prove that Obama care got the whole approach to solving the nation’s escalating health care costs wrong in its approach and strategy. The National Research Council is part of the National Academy Of Sciences, an independent organization of the Federal government, chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific matters. Thus, the government did not even listen to itself when it cobbled together the looming disaster know as Obama Care.
According to the report:
– The United States spends more on health care than any other nation in the world but has worse life expectancy than many other nations who spend less.
– The U.S. average life expectancy at birth for women is 80.8 years and 75.6 years for men.
– In France, women’s life expectancy is 84.4 years and for men it is 77.4 years.
– In Japan, women’s life expectancy is almost 86 years and for men it is 79.2.
– The report concludes that smoking and obesity are the primary drivers of the U.S.’s poor performance since, according to the findings, over the years, the U.S. led those unhealthy trends of eating too much of the wrong kinds of food and smoking too much.
– The report found in countries where women’s life expectancy was high, there was a strong correlation with low smoking levels and in those countries where women’s smoking levels were comparable to U.S. smoking levels, life expectancy was about the same as in the U.S.
– The report estimated that between 25% and 33% of the shortfall in life expectancy in the U.S. was due to obesity.
Well, what a surprise. If you do not take care of your body and health, you will live a shorter life and probably live a less healthy life. This is not rocket science. I would also assume that even if these bad habits do not shorten your life, they certainly make you more unhealthy and more likely to need medical care, further burdening the health care industry and adding to the cost of providing health care service.
Consider some other recent scientific findings that we have discussed in this blog:
– In a Fortune magazine article last year, the head of the world renowned Cleveland Clinic was interviewed and he estimated that smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise account for the majority of illnesses in this country.
– The Cleveland Clinic significantly reduced the health risks of those that work in the Clinic and the entire county where the Clinic is located by offering smoking cessation classes, exercise options, and improved eating options in their cafeterias.
– An AARP Magazine article from their December, 2010 issue reported on how a small American town had implemented a town wide health drive that had resulted in many townspeople using the program to drop considerable amounts of excess weight.
– A December 24, 2010 article from The Week magazine reported on how Americans take in too much salt in their diet and that just a small reduction in that amount could save upwards of 100,000 lives a year that occur as a result of excess salt (a 13% decline), and the incidence of new heart disease and stroke cases would decrease by 11% and 8% respectively.
– In that same issue of The Week, another article reported on how American kids spend way too much time passively watching television and not getting up and exercising, behavior that results in poorer school performance, a higher chance of being bullied, and higher ratios of body fat.
As we have said many times before, the probable root causes of escalating health care costs in this country is a public health problem of too much smoking, too much eating, too much eating of the wrong types of food, and not enough exercising and movement. The need for higher taxes, the need to force everyone to purchase health care insurance coverage, and the need to implement an incredibly complex, inefficient and expensive government bureaucracy to administer Obama Care are probably not the root causes.
Unfortunately, this latter approach is what the political class decided to implement. It does not address these root causes, causes that are best addressed by a public health approach, not a taxation and government control/bureaucracy approach.
In fact, I would maintain that Michelle Obama has done more to improve the health care situation in the United States than the President and all of Congress has done. Ms. Obama has been active in promoting programs to get kids up and out and active. Just this past week, she held a joint news conference with Walmart officials where they jointly announced an effort to make the food products sold in Walmart supermarkets healthier. No additional taxes, no additional impositions on freedom, no additional government intervention in our lives, just sound, simple public health improvement actions.
What should we do to fix this wrong headed and doomed to failure approach of Obama Care? Consider two steps that might help:
– Step 1 – implement a subject matter expert panel of smart Americans, a panel that would not include politicians and lobbyists, that would execute a ground up approach, problem solving exercise to fully understand the underlying root causes of our nation’s poor health and resulting high health care costs. Once the underlying causes were identified, implement the probable public health care strategies to begin changing eating, exercising, and smoking behavior, not changing tax laws.
– Step 2 – last year, the Obama administration admitted that upwards of $100 billion a year is lost through government health care programs to fraud and criminal activity. A $100 billion is a lot of money, money that could be better spent helping provide health care coverage and services to Americans that need help. Thus, this step would aggressively staff up anti-fraud and anti-criminal behavior and tighten up the processes to reduce this obscene amount of taxpayer money wasted through fraud. Better to hire more government agents to go after real criminals in this fraud area than to hire more government agents to pursue and criminalize honest Americans that do not purchase health care coverage under Obama Care.
– Step 3 – has some fascinating possibilities. If cigarettes were outlawed altogether, you can be sure that a criminal black market would develop in cigarettes, contributing to the rise of yet another government fostered criminal enterprise, just like Prohibition did and just like the War on Drugs does. However, what if you made it so unattractive to smoke that you achieved the same objective without criminalizing smoking?
The genesis of this approach was identified in a short blurb in the November 19, 2010 issue of The Week magazine which named www.Boston.com as the source. According to the blurb, beginning on January 1, 2011 the Massachusetts Hospital Association will no longer hire people who smoke tobacco. The obvious intent is to reduce, an intent that was verified by the CEO of the Association, the overall number of smokers. As we know from results and research listed above, dropping the smoking rate results in all kinds of good health care results.
In this approach, no one is forcing smokers to stop smoking. No one is making smoking illegal. No criminal enterprises arise. However, there is one less employment opportunity for people in the Massachusetts area. What if Obama had taken the following approach:
– Starting in 2013, the Federal government will no longer hire anyone who is a smoker.
– Starting in 2015, anyone on the Federal payroll who is still a smoker will be removed form the Federal payroll.
– Between now and the beginning of 2015, the Federal government will provide extensive smoking cessation support for current government employees who smoke.
This example might actually ripple through the economy as companies take their lead from the Federal government, resulting in a healthier and longer living America.
Would there be lawsuits implemented by smokers? Probably, Would they be successful? I do not know but the Massachusetts Hospital Association does not think they would be successful, given that they have already implemented this process under the legal assumption that “smokers” are not a protected class.
This is the type of original thinking and creativity that was totally absent from the formulation and writing of Obama Care. The political class just did what they always do, pass muddled legislation that adjusts taxes and creates more bureaucracy without ever addressing the root causes. This behavior is something we like to call “Amateur Hour” and is another case where they got it all wrong again.