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Our Food is Killing Us-Let's Get Healthy!

Posted by Joe Antle on September 3, 2019 9:40 AM EDT
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Recently, I was lamenting about the raging debate over health insurance models with a couple of very good friends who are both executives with two separate health insurance carriers.  One of these gentlemen runs the Medicaid business with his employer Optima Health while the other runs the web analytics business with Anthem BC/BS of Virginia.  My points in the discussion was that the debate always seems to focus on the issue of should all insurance follow the "Medicare for All" model or should it go back to 100% privatization through the free enterprise market model?

My position is that the debate is ill-founded.  The focus needs to be on driving activities and lifestyle changes, healthcare education and other actions to improve population health and reduce demand on the American health care system.  I told them as an ex-media executive now working in substance use disorder services, it's an issue that the media is not focusing on fully enough.  All of this, of course, is brought back into the public dialogue in part due to the Democratic political debates..... 

....most of the candidates aligning with the party-line of "Medicare for All".  

My two friends, who work for successful companies and who have been employed in the industry for a long time, kindly agreed with my points.  However, neither offered much encouragement that anything will change without some sort of major initiative in support of a renewed focus on population health management.  They agreed that media can become more aligned with such a solution and perhaps insurance could develop incentives to drive better health activities, including disincentives for lack of compliance to a personalized health improvement plan.

Then a few days later, one of them sent me a great article which had recently been published in the New York Times.  The article, an opinion piece written by experts and published in the NYT on August 26, 2019, makes my point in powerful ways.  (It was written by Dariush Mozaffarian and Dan Glickman.  Mr. Mozaffarian is Dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Mr. Glickman was the secretary of agriculture from 1995 to 2001).    

I highly recommend readers of this blog post to read the entire piece which can be found on the Documents tab in this profile or accessed in the attachment that accompanies this article.

However, to give you just a taste of the context of the piece, I share below a small excerpt from it.  You will find this gives a good introduction to the background reasons, much in keeping with the points I tried to make with my two health insurance carrier executives/friends.  The expertise of the authors vastly exceeds mine, so the credibility of the line of thinking is hard to refute.

In essence, the issue is tied indirectly to the "obesity epidemic".  Which may have just as damaging a long-term impact on our population as the "opioid epidemic" which has taken so many lives in recent years.

The point is tied to the impact of poor nutrition.  While it doesn't deal with the additional negative aspect of a relatively inactive population, especially those receiving government-sponsored health insurance.  The introductory paragraphs below should whet your appetite to read the entire article.  And I believe you will agree with me that it's well past time for the focus to be on leveraging insurance, and other incentives to drive healthier lifestyles....before it's too late!

The excerpt below is reprinted from The NewYork Times on August 26, 2019.  For the full article, download the attachment below or access it in the Documents tab of this profile....:

"The Democratic debate on health care has to date centered around who should be covered and who should pay the bill. That debate, which has been going on for decades, has no clear answers and cannot be easily resolved because of two fundamental realities: Health care is expensive, and Americans are sick.

Americans benefit from highly trained personnel, remarkable facilities and access to the newest drugs and technologies. Unless we eliminate some of these benefits, our health care will remain costly. We can trim around the edges — for example, with changes in drug pricing, lower administrative costs, reductions in payments to hospitals and providers, and fewer defensive and unnecessary procedures. These actions may slow the rise in health care spending, but costs will keep rising as the population ages and technology advances.

And Americans are sick — much sicker than many realize. More than 100 million adults — almost half the entire adult population — have pre-diabetes or diabetes. Cardiovascular disease afflicts about 122 million people and causes roughly 840,000 deaths each year, or about 2,300 deaths each dayThree in four adults are overweight or obese. More Americans are sick, in other words, than are healthy.

Instead of debating who should pay for all this, no one is asking the far more simple and imperative question: What is making us so sick, and how can we reverse this so we need less health care? The answer is staring us in the face, on average three times a day: our food".

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