Monday, April 28, 2008

Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

Many people put off investing in their own health. We take better care of our cars than we do our most precious gift, our own body. We used to think we could put it off and simply pay up later.

That day is coming sooner than many people realize since many hospitals are now charging before they provide service. Uncompensated care cost the hospital industry $31.2 billion in 2006 up 44% from 2000. It's not only those without insurance or with little coverage, the increasing co-pays and deductables are pushing the bills to new heights. (Don't get me started on the price of gas and food!)

Best choice has always been to invest in your health TODAY otherwise you may discover the truth of "penny wise, pound foolish" later at the doorway to the hospital.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Modern Medicine vs. Old Wives' Tale

There is an old wives' tale that if a woman eats bananas she'll have a boy. Now British researchers have confirmed it. In addition it makes a difference if a woman eats breakfast. Women who ate one bowl daily were 87% more likely to have a boy than women who ate just one per week.

The study involved 700 women in the United Kingdom and is reported to be the first to show a link in humans between a woman's diet and the sex of her child.

Want to bet that the pharmaceutical industry comes up with a banana pill with a commercial on the evening news sometime soon?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Getting Our Priorities In Order

Did you know that France provides a minimum of 30 days of paid leave every year? Or that Austria and Portugal require 22 vacation days each year along with 13 holidays? America ranks last among industrialized countries!

America is a nation of workaholics ... and it is literally killing us. We're not on this planet to work but to live and we seem to have forgotten the priority. It's the reason we have so many health problems so it literally is killing us.

Next time you're tempted to skip a vacation (or take your laptop or PDA) ask yourself "Why?" because you're missing a chance to LIVE!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Declining Health in U.S.

According to a new study average life expectancy declined significantly in nearly 200 counties across America. Overall life expectancy has increased since 1961 to 79.6 years for women and 74.1 years for men but it began to plateau or decline in the 1980's for 4% of men and 19% of women.

This rise in mortality for chronic diseases contradicts the health trends in other industrialized countries. Generally the data highlights domestic trends in smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.

According to Majid Ezzati of Harvard University, "In the U.S. there has always been a view, stated or unstated, that we can live with some inequality if everyone is getting better. This is the first sign that not everyone is getting better."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Price of Drugs

Insurance companies are changing the game so people understand and appreciate just how expensive the newest prescription drugs can be. The new "Tier 4" pricing will change from a fixed co-pay amount to a percentage of the total cost, so instead of the small co-pay of $10 or $20 patients are now paying, they'll pay a percentage of the price of the drug. As an example if your drug is actually $500 per bottle, say $16.67 per pill for a month, then instead of just a few dollars you might pay $150 or 30% of the total. If you have one of the really expensive new drugs, say $1,500 per bottle or $50 per pill, you might spend $450 for each refill ... or $5,400 per year for the medication.

Obviously the insurance companies want you to appreciate the cost difference between old generic drugs with proven effectiveness to the latest, as-seen-on-TV drugs which can be incredibly expensive. As gamblers say, if you have "more skin in the game" then you'll decide what it's really worth.

The good news is by making prescription drugs more expensive the insurance companies are also going to increase the popularity of complementary and alternative medicine. After all, if it's your money you may as well spend it on what you want.

Monday, April 14, 2008

CAM Growing in Popularity

People want complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) even when they're using mainstream medicine. The American Hospital Association does a survey every two years on CAM use in hospitals and the latest shows the percentage of hospitals offering one or more CAM services increased from 8% in 1998 to 27% in 2005.

You probably expect them all to be in California but most were in the Midwest and they were actually less common on the West Coast. The least common areas to offer CAM services were in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The top CAM services offered on an outpatient basis among hospitals were massage therapy (71%); tai chi, yoga, or chi gong (47%); relaxation training (43%), acupuncture (39%); guided imagery (32%), and therapeutic touch (30%). The top inpatient services were massage therapy (37%), music/art therapy (26%), therapeutic touch (25%), guided imagery (22%), relaxation training (20%), and acupuncture (11%).

There are literally hundreds of other therapies available (as shown in UnBreak Your Health) but at least we're making a start. Hospitals and doctors are beginning to realize there are thousands of years of healing experience available in therapies outside of prescription drugs. People are finding the courage to ask for what they want.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Taking Responsibility for Our Health

Companies are encouraging employees to take responsibility for their health by adding the convenience of on-site health clinics. With the cost of employee health care running about $10,000 per year it's also an opportunity to save money while benefiting healthier, more productive employees, which is why 30% of large employers have on-site clinics.

Most clinics focus on preventative health care but 40% also offer pharmacy services. Some offer primary care, travel medicine, even pregnancy support and nutritional advice. Frequently clinics can produce savings of $70,000 the first year and up to $250,000 by the third year mainly by reducing the number of emergency room visits, self-referrals to specialists and improving health awareness.

Anything that gets Americans to take responsibility for their own health is a good thing ... now if we could just get them to add complementary and alternative medicine to those clinics!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Money and Longevity

We assume that if you spend more on health care then you'll live longer and better, and as usual that may be wrong. New research from Dartmouth College illustrates the discrepencies in our nation's health care system.

While Medicare spending for chronically ill patients in the last two years of life at UCLA cost $93,842 it cost $53,432 at the Mayo Clinic's main teaching hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. Many people have pointed to the variations of medical policy and procedures as one of the main factors for cost and waste in our system. The care you get, and what it costs, depends on where you live. While chronically ill patients spent only 10.6 days in the hospital in Bend, Oregon they spent nearly 35 days in the hospital in Manhattan.

This is important because Medicare spends $1 for chronic illnesses out of every $3 spent. The next time someone tries to tell you that Western medicine has all of the answers, remind them they don't even know how much variation there is in system.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Drug Timing

Is it a coincidence that 14 of the 21 drug withdrawals or black-box warnings for drugs approved since 1993 were approved within two months before the deadline for new drug applications? To look at it another way, the 97 drugs approved near the FDA's deadline had a 14% rate of severe safety problems compared with a 3% rate for 216 other drugs.

Could it be the FDA's effort to "fast track" drug approvals is leading to cutting corners? Today the agency promises to decide on 90% of drug applications within 10 months. In 1991 it took them 33 months to decide on a new drug. Drugs like Vioxx, Baycol and Rezulin were all approved within two months of deadline. There is no law forcing this schedule, just politics and pressure from the drug industry in a rush to make money. While some people can't wait for the newest drug, others pay a deadly price for such haste.

Compare this system to the world of complementary and alternative therapies which have been around for decades, hundreds ... sometimes even thousands of years. Regardless of what mainstream medicine says, if these treatments weren't effective they would not have survived. Which would you rather have?