Like folks my age, I sit around worrying about affordable health care until it makes me sick.
In the past few years, nothing has leap-frogged more in expense than health care. And that includes fancy new automobiles with all the gizmos, or new homes that resemble estates.
Truth is, medical care is increasing in cost faster than our ability to pay for it. For many families, it has become a crushing financial burden for them and their employers.
If we get sick without insurance, we’d better be millionaires. ‘Cause that’s what it’s going to cost us. Hospitals, doctors, procedures, operations and medicine are shaking our wallets clean.
Today’s health care costs have gone beyond a trillion dollars, heading toward $6 trillion a year by 2027. Yikes, that’s only eight years away.
On average, each of us spend about $11,000 or more a year on health insurance, medicine and co-pays. That’s a heavy financial burden for a family of four or more.
To get to the heart of the subject, medical care is like a speeding runaway train. There’s an awful wreck coming somewhere down the line.
Just like the federal government, the medical communities and insurance companies will not cure themselves. It’s reached a point where we must treat this oozing boil. Bandages and balms won’t get the job done.
Like most of you, I was raised to be tough and self-reliant. Sissies ran to doctors, not real people. We toughed it out like in the old western movies, sewing our own cuts back together with needle and thread.
But that was then. Its tomorrow we need to worry about.
Doing a little research, I found that 15 medical conditions – some of them controllable through diet and exercise – are responsible for about half of the $200 billion rise in health care in the past decade.
These include diabetes, arthritis, kidney disease, back problems, strokes, pneumonia, skin disorders, infection. Doesn’t sound like those ills should cost an arm or a leg, but they do.
Five conditions – heart disease, cancer, trauma, pulmonary problems and mental disorders – account fully for one-third of the increase in health care spending.
Rising fast on the list, too, are hate-crime shootings that leave victims severely wounded, requiring extensive and costly medical treatment or injuries for life. These mass shootings are happening at the rate of one or more per week.
As I said, health care has become a crushing financial burden for families and employers who pay a sizeable amount of their workers’ health coverage.
To us lay people, medical care is similar to an iceberg. We understand about one-tenth of it.
The remainder is expensively hidden and obscure, cloaked in procedures, tests, screenings, specialists, medication, and, most important, health insurance – all lurking just below the surface.
The scary increase in diabetes, for instance, closely tracks the rise in obesity during the past decade. People are eating more and putting on more weight.
Hypertension, we learn, can result from a bad diet. And jumps in asthma cases are linked to both indoor and outdoor air pollution.
Many of our health problems we bring on ourselves through our habits. Prevention appears to be the only way for us to directly control our medical expenses.
The bottom line is this: it’s up to us to get healthier. In many cases, we’ll need to radically change our lifestyles to eat foods that cause less harm to the body.
Or, the alternative will be this: not too far into the future, we’ll be handing over our entire paychecks to cover our bills from medical providers and our insurance companies.
I wrote a book once called “The Beast that Ate Alabama,” about the ubiquitous kudzu that had covered the entire state.
I was wrong about that. Southern states and the federal government, working together for once, joined forces to eradicate kudzu from the South.
Unlike kudzu, there won’t be a magical cure for the high price of health coverage.
It’s going to take a national effort to get to the heart of this urgent problem and to uncover real solutions.
In the meantime, we can expect to keep paying medical bills that show no signs of slowing down or getting smaller – a trend that makes us queasy.
Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives near Auburn. His email address is email@example.com.