For most of us, “healthcare” means a system that wants to keep us healthy. We think of healthcare as a system that will help us prevent disease and illness and make sure we stay in good health.
But what if the system we have in place is actually designed to keep us sick?
The truth is, our healthcare system is based on treating people after they become sick—and not on preventing them from getting sick in the first place. Since this model doesn’t work very well in keeping people healthy, it’s no wonder Americans spend so much money on medical bills yearly!
The Healthcare In The US
The US spends at least twice as much money on healthcare as any other country in the world. You get what you pay for, right?
By this logic, we should have the best healthcare in the world. We should have the lowest infant mortality rate – we don’t come in at 33 out of 36. We should have the lowest obesity rate, but we are 36 out of 36. At the very least, we should be living longer with all this money spent, and we don’t –we don’t come in at number 28 out of 36.
Healthcare in America has become a huge and complex issue. On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer: people get sick and need healthcare, so we provide it. We’ve all heard the phrase “healthcare for all,” implying that everyone deserves access to health services if needed.
But when you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that the cost of healthcare in America is out of control—and that our system actually rewards companies who provide more expensive care.
We spend more than twice as much on healthcare per capita than any other country, yet our life expectancy is lower than in most developed nations.
Why Is The Most Expensive Healthcare System Not Working?
The most expensive healthcare system in the world isn’t working. In fact, it’s failing us. But why?
Well, the answer is complicated, but one thing is clear: we need to make changes. We can’t keep going on like this.
We’re not saying that healthcare is bad or that doctors aren’t doing what they can—we’re just saying that our current system of care isn’t working for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be this way.
Here are some of the messes we’re seeing right now:
The problem with our current healthcare system is that it’s not outcome based. Let’s look at how insurance works.
You go to your primary care provider (PCP), and they check you. You go home, and then the PCP submits the bill to the insurance company. The insurance company pays all or some of it—but no matter what happens, they’re paying for something. It doesn’t matter if they pay for a successful or unsuccessful visit—it’s all covered by them either way.
So when you get sick, there’s no incentive for anyone in this chain to focus on getting you better. They don’t care about whether or not their intervention makes you better—they only care about getting paid by their customers. And it shows!
The medical providers are not at fault here. They’re just doing their job in a system set up to maximize the number of patients they see, not the quality of care they provide.
The bottom line is this: the insurance system is designed to keep you coming in—it is NOT designed to get you better. Moreover, it’s not the medical providers’ fault. You are getting shortchanged as a patient because the system is designed that way.
Drug companies are a critical part of our health but also a part of our sickness. It is important that these companies exist. They do the research and development needed to find medications that save lives. People would die without insulin or seizure medications or chemo or a thousand other life-saving medications. So, they must continue doing that work.
It is so important that the government funds part of the research and development by giving these companies tax credits. The government says basically since you are spending your time researching how to save the lives of our people, here is a tax break to encourage private sector investment in pioneering research. This tax credit was created, so companies continue developing new and improved technology to save lives.
But here’s the thing: if you look at the drugs that make the most money for drug companies, they are typically for preventable conditions (diabetes, cardiovascular issues, GI medications, respiratory and central nervous system meds). In other words, if we become healthier as a nation and don’t require these drugs for our preventable conditions, how will drug companies make money? Tell me why any drug company would want us to get better.
You’re probably thinking: “Why would that be a problem? Isn’t it a good thing that we have so many specialists?”
Not quite. It’s not that specialists are bad guys; quite the opposite! They’ve spent 10-15 years of training focusing on all the diseases that have to do with one body part—the more specialized they are, the more disease-oriented their mindset is supposed to be getting the sickest people possible. That’s why there are so many specialists: they’re disease experts! They were taught to find the disease and work backward to find a cure.
While specialists are great when you have a particular issue requiring that level of detail, it shouldn’t be where we start. We should start with a primary care provider (PCP)—ideally a general practitioner or family doctor who has a system that supports them in taking time with each patient and asking questions about everything from diet to sleep habits.
However, our system now pays PCPs much less than specialists. As a result, PCPs are stressed and burned out, overworked, and underpaid. To keep up with the system’s demands, they often have to see patients in less than 10 minutes per appointment. Then, we’re left with a shortage of PCPs and a system that undervalues primary care. We need to re-frame this issue as one of human health and well-being, and we need to start by changing how we compensate those who provide it.
Obesity is a major factor in many of our nation’s most costly diseases—diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. If you take a map and see which states have the highest rates of obesity, they are the same states with the highest rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and lowest life expectancy.
Obesity is an epidemic. In the US, over two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight, and it’s costing us $190 billion every year. But are there billions of dollars being driven to what it takes to help people reverse or prevent obesity? No.
Some people think that if someone is obese, it’s their fault—they should take responsibility for themselves and do something about it. But what if you grew up in an area without access to good food? What if you grew up in an environment where you never saw a salad because it was cheaper to feed a family on fast food than fresh vegetables? What if you lived in an area so dangerous that going outside wasn’t possible?
Imagine a world where we invested in creating opportunities for people to access healthy food and safe parks rather than spending billions of dollars on treating illnesses caused by poor nutrition. But we don’t. We do not address food deserts or make sure people have access to quality food; we do not include nutrition in our curriculum. We invest billions of dollars in treating the diseases caused by obesity.
So if we’re fixing healthcare in America, we need to get serious about fixing obesity.
How To Stay Healthy In The Broken Healthcare System
There is still hope of being healthy in this broken system: use the system for what it is designed to do and then opt out of the rest. But what does it mean?
First and foremost, the healthcare system is designed for sick people—if you are sick and have a diagnosis, the system will work for you. You’re in the right place if you need the latest and best medical and pharmaceutical intervention. Use every bit that you need!
Moreover, use the system for whatever screenings you can. Get your annuals, pap smears, colonoscopies, etc. This will help you can get a head start if something isn’t right.
In addition, take advantage of its strong points: laboratories, imaging, pathology, etc. These are all great resources for information about your health. They can tell you what is going on in your body and help guide treatment if needed.
But the most important part is to do everything you can to not get sick and need the system. Opt out of the standard American diet. Stay active. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Use nutrition as your medicine. Make decisions that will help you live a longer and better life. A healthy lifestyle is the best way to avoid having to use the medical system in the first place.
Ultimately, we all want the same thing: to live healthy, happy lives. And it’s time we take back control of our own health so that we can do just that.
We know how hard it can be to navigate the broken healthcare system. That’s why we’re here to help you be the game changer in your health. Book an appointment today to get started on your journey to better health.