Go ahead. Sit back, count your money, and watch Republicans dispose of Obamacare. They promised to do it. It’s what we wanted. The party has been waiting for the chance for years. The new White House will claim a massive victory for the people when it’s done. Will it make a difference? Whatever the ACA gets replaced with, there will be no solution to the single worst health care problem in America: people getting sick and dying early because they don’t take care of themselves.
People who die too early are the worst U.S. health care problem. Why? Because some of the most deadly, expensive conditions are our own fault and we don’t avoid them. There is no solution for that, no matter what Washington decides to do.
Ryan’s promise is no solution
Paul Ryan was right for the wrong reasons when he claimed:
Obamacare has failed the American people – and things are only getting worse.1
Does anyone believe that insurance companies will slash their premiums to affordable rates when Obamacare is dismantled? The speaker’s goal of “immediate relief for the American people”2 is a hollow promise. We can be relieved of bad legislation, but we will not be rid of the high cost of getting sick. Health care for chronic and terminal illnesses cost a lot before Obamacare and it will cost a lot after its demise.
The problem is that Obamacare isn’t the only thing that failed us. In many cases we fail ourselves.
Worst health care problem? Killing ourselves.
Getting sick is expensive. If you get really sick it can be so devastating that your health comes second to what it does to your finances. When hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, home care providers, and others are finished tallying up the charges, you may wish they hadn’t done such a good job trying to save your life. Neither Obamacare nor any GOP proposal can fix that.
Cancer is not the only offender, but it’s a big one. The costs of treating the disease are astounding on a national level.
We bring some of it on ourselves.
Dying early: an expensive problem with no solution
Dying too soon is partially our fault. The numbers have been going down, but the CDC still estimates that as many as 15% of deaths from cancer, 30% from heart disease, 36% from respiratory disease, and 28% from strokes didn’t have to happen.3
We know what’s good for us. We also know what isn’t. So does the CDC:
Four of these health risk behaviors—lack of exercise or physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and drinking too much alcohol—cause much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases and conditions.4
Americans don’t exercise and don’t maintain healthy weights. Some of us still smoke. We applaud restaurant menu items that keep raising the bar on bad judgment. Then we complain about the high cost of health care or worse, go broke paying for an illness we caused.
Only 21% of people meet the government’s meager 150 minutes/week exercise guidelines,5 but we spend $245 billion on diabetes6 and that’s only for the cases we know about. How do you help prevent Type 2 diabetes? For starters, you do something 68.8% of adults in the U.S. don’t do.7 You control your weight, something we should be thankful Obamacare’s one size fits all approach to health care premiums doesn’t take into account.
The problem with guaranteed issue
The best thing about Obamacare is guaranteed issue health insurance. You can be a physical wreck and still get a health plan.
The worst thing about Obamacare is that insurance is like taxes. Providers are not going to be eager to slash their premiums. Part of that is our fault because of the high cost of the illnesses we cause.
There is a solution to keeping your health care costs down that has nothing to do with insurance. You could try doing whatever it takes to not get sick. For many people that will help make health care costs more affordable. It doesn’t mean you won’t get a cancer diagnosis or your heart won’t fail, but at least you will have done everything you could to stay healthy. If we paid as much attention to staying healthy as we did to our health care costs, they might not have to be so high. We might even live longer and get to spend some of our money on something other than staying alive.