Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Saw SICKO last night. It is a classic Michael Moore film as we watch him traipse around the world exploring health systems in a number of different countries and comparing them to ours. We get to meet dozens of people and their horror stories as their lives have been turned upside down as a result of dealing with the American health care system. Ironically, the gentleman he profiles at the start of the film--the one who lost two fingers and then, because the cost to reattach his fingers ranged from a low of $12,000 for one and $60,000 for the other--ended up only reattaching the less expensive one because he didn't have insurance and that's all he could afford--lives in my area. I actually met him last week! Seems like a charming guy.

SICKO is a good film and no matter what side of the political spectrum you are on--it is impossible to watch this film and believe that we've got a system that has to be maintained. Our system is not based in health care--it is based in money--designed to enrich a few in the insurance companies and their stock investors--and nothing else. We've actually enslaved ourselves into this system--we made it up, we can make it something else! And we'll need to because with 45 million uninsured, and a good majority of those who are insured being routinely denied care--it is a system that is crashing in on itself, bankrupting America's businesses and leaving us #37 on the list of 'quality of our health system'. Yes, #37 despite the fact that we spend more money on health care than any other developed country.

True story--about 10 years ago, I worked with a fitness center and we approached an HMO in Norfolk/Virginia Beach, VA. Based on the perception that HMO's desire to keep subscribers healthy as a way to have strong profits ( in that, if they're healthy, they won't need expensive services--thus prevention makes fiscal sense) , we approached Sentara Health System's, Optima Health insurance plan and did a 'prevention' presentation. We would offer the fitness center at reduced rates for their subscribers and we would offer Life Puzzle programs at their office sites to teach prevention lifestyle behaviors. All with the goal of keeping them healthy and thus the HMO would be more successful.

At the end of the presentation, as most of the group left, one gentleman remained. He happened to be a friend of the fitness center owner--so we asked--what did you think? Do you think Optima Health plan would pick up such a contract? He looked at us, thanked us for a wonderful presentation and then shook his head and said, "No, I don't think it will be picked up." We asked why--and I will never forget his answer--he said, "We're not in the health care business--we're in the money making business. It doesn't really matter to us whether people use services or stay healthy. If they use a lot of services--we'll just raise our rates--our profits are ensured no matter what!". We left shocked...but sure enough, in the early 2000's... HMO rates skyrocketed. Double and triple inflation--justified by the 'cost' of services for all these people. As I watched the news, all I could see was this group laughing its way to the bank!

And so now what? Will be decide to examine a system that benefits few and leaves us with an inferior health care system or will we just shrug and say "well, that's the way it is". Well, you know where I stand--its time to go 6-10 proactive and change this into a system that works!
It is doable--but only if we get involved.

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