Thursday, August 20, 2009

Health is the Problem, not the Solution

A newsletter I get, from Join Together, recently posted this article, about how some people think that the issue of personal responsibility should play a bigger role in the health care debate. Predictably - since this organization focuses on substance abuse and addiction - many readers cried foul, pointing out that addiction is a disease for which people can't be held responsible, at least not in the conventional way.

That question doesn't interest me near so much as the larger one of whether (or not) we're finally coming to understand that, in one way or another, we ALL pay for one another's health care. Yes, we're socialists, folks, whether we like it or not, whether or not the word makes us rip our eyes out and wail into the dark night. Therefore - because we're all unfortunately in it together - it would make sense for us to take some simple measures to keep ourselves healthy, not just for our own sake, but for society's sake as well. We can't avoid this distasteful financial intimacy, given that that's what insurance (public or private) is. Sorry, I'm just saying. It's not who issues the insurance. It's the very concept of insurance. You pay for mine, I pay for yours, and we all pay for the sickest. That's the way it is.

Anyway, in responding to the article, a woman named Carole points out that we're all just a bunch of goodie-two-shoers. It turns out that we can natter on about "prevention" and "responsibility" all we want, parrotting back the conventional wisdom about how health care reform will make everyone healthier and thus save us all a big pile of money. But NONE OF THAT'S TRUE, I now find out. Not seeing how it's healthy people (yes, HEALTHY people) who end up consuming the most medical care over a lifetime. It seems that, on the way to their high-cost nursing homes, they wheel their walkers over the corpses of those who died early from obesity or smoking - people who, in dying so prematurely, thoughtfully saved us a lot of dough.

So it's our relative health and lengthening lifespans that's the problem, eh? What do we do with this perhaps obvious bit of information? Encourage smoking and the consumption of trunk-loads of junk food? Well, maybe not. But since we've been hurtling toward this point for at least a century, it seems time that somebody dare utter it: we can't afford the long (and at the end, unhealthy and costly) lives we've granted ourselves. And making ourselves still MORE healthy isn't going to help; quite the opposite, conceivably. (Yes, I know. Healthy people are productive and pay taxes. Sick people on disability don't. That's another discussion). What now?

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