Be Prepared for Healthcare Rationing
December 8, 2008
Vol. 4, Issue 11
In nations where the government pays for and manages healthcare, there is always rationing of available services. Many proposals are currently being made about how to “change” our healthcare system, and most with great intention. But while change is certainly needed, many of the proposed solutions could end up having a serious impact on your access to healthcare. So this month, some thoughts on the situation and what you can do about it.
Out of Control Government Spending
The march of government spending continues… After 8 years, the Bush administration has grown the budget deficit to nearly $500 billion dollars, not including tens of billions of dollars in additional Iraq war funding. And there’s really no sign that the Obama administration, backed by a Democratic congress, will reverse this trend.
The entitlement payments for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are also a ticking time-bomb. In just 2 year, the first Baby Boomers will be able to access Medicare, and its virtually unlimited health care. Medicare is currently spending more than it takes in taxes, and the Medicare hospital insurance trust fund is predicted to become insolvent by 2019.
So just to pay for current obligations, lawmakers will have to drastically raise taxes. In the mean time they contemplate loaning billions of our tax dollars to failing businesses, while discussing programs that will get the federal government even more involved in our healthcare system.
The Rationing Ahead
When someone else is paying the bill, demand can soar. That is currently the case with Medicare, in which the government covers most of the cost for these services. (Imagine if they did the same thing for new American car purchases – business at GM, Chrysler, and Ford would be booming, and car price inflation would be soaring.)
So the only way government can control costs is by limiting access. This happens everywhere that socialized medicine is the norm. One needs only to look at Britain, where nearly a million people are on waiting lists for healthcare, or Canada, where thousands stream into the U.S. each year to get care that is unavailable in their own country.
This rationing can of course have serious health consequences. Per capita, one third less people in Britain are able to get bone marrow transplants; access to bypass surgery is seventy-five percent lower. Delays in Britain for colon cancer treatment are so long that 20 percent of once-curable cases are no longer so, once someone can actually get treatment.
As the federal government here in the U.S. gets more involved in healthcare, expect to see the same increase in waiting lists and limits on services. In fact, it’s already happening in Massachusetts, where a new government mandate on health insurance now exists.
How to Protect Yourself
There are two factors that can help protect your access to the healthcare you may need in the future. The first is money. Because of the extreme waits, people in Britain so often turn to the private sector that almost one out of every five operations are paid for out-of-pocket.
So you want to have money available to pay for care if there are other obstacles to access. The best way to put aside money for future medical expenses is, of course, through your HSA. If you had a plan in place by December 1st, you can make a contribution for 2008 – you have until April 15th. And on January 1st, you can make your 2009 contribution. Not only do you get an immediate tax break, but the money then grows tax-deferred and is tax-free when you withdraw it to pay for a medical expense.
The other place that you can take personal responsibility is with your own health. Rather than waiting for some Merck scientist to invent a pill to save you, take control of your health – first by what you eat. In my years of studying health and nutrition, I have learned that absolutely nothing is more powerful than the type of food you eat.
The healthiest diet is that which we evolved to eat. Sometimes called a “hunter-gatherer” diet, this way of eating causes people to lose weight, it reduces risk of high blood pressure and other metabolic diseases, and will help treat and prevent auto-immune disease. The best information on it can be found at www.ThePaleoDiet.com.
Uncle Sam to the Rescue
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just be taken care of? If there was a rich uncle who could cover our medical expenses, pay our mortgage, and make sure all the poorly run companies stayed in business – gee, that would be swell. But despite all the clamoring for the government to take care of these types of things, in the long run it won’t work out as they promise – trust me. So take action now for yourself and your family, to be ready for whatever changes are coming down the pike.
P.S. - Next month we’ll talk about a way to greatly lower your expenses when you need to speak to a doctor.