Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Growing Cost of Health Care

Is it better to have health care rationed by a government bureaucrat or by your own inability to pay for it? If you don't think it makes any difference then you're ignoring the potential for huge cost savings for everyone. In a nationalized health care system the government controls all health care and sets the pricing. America has free-market health care so prices have no control and every step in the system is free to charge whatever the market will bear in order to maximize profits. Doctors want to make more money, hospitals want to make more money, insurance companies want to make more money and so on.

Many Americans think we have the best health care system in the world. We don't. We have the most expensive health care system. How can you believe it's the best health care when we aren't as healthy or live as long as those in other industrialized countries? Depending on which study you read we rank #33 to #38 for longevity in the world putting us behind not only every other industrialized country but even behind many so-called, second-world countries. We don't live as long and we don't live as well. In many cases it's because we put off health care because of the expense. Today we're spending 17% of our nation's total Gross Domestic Product on health care while other industrialized countries are spending 7% - 12%. This is not a small difference!

Recently I was reminded of this increasingly dire situation after going through some medical tests. The bills are still rolling in months later and even though my insurance plan pays part of it, just keeping up with my share of each bill can be challenging. It scares me to think about what a major surgery or health crisis would cost. For a growing number of people every year it means either being healthy or going bankrupt. Rationing by cost, even bankruptcy, isn't any better than the restrictions of a government-run system and due to our escalating costs it's much more likely.

Every year medical inflation rises more than regular inflation (and much more than salary increases) so it's like compound interest. It grows and grows and keeps growing out of control. Every level of our health care system wants to maximize their profits, and they do. If you look at a graph of the rise in our incomes and the rise in medical costs in the past forty years you'd be sickened by the huge and growing gap in affordability.

Think for a moment if America had enacted some type of national health care plan when Clinton was president. Can you imagine how more affordable health care would be today because we wouldn't have nearly 20 years of medical inflation compounding costs? Instead we let the TV commercials of Harry and Sally persuade us to let the health care system continue to take more and more of our money.

The question today is: What are we going to do about it? Many people complain about Obamacare but I haven't heard any suggestions that will do any better. A free-market system does not work in health care, we have plenty of research showing that from all over the country. Dallas is one of the most "competitive" markets in the country because we have so many different companies that are supposed to be competing for our health care business. Instead of lowering costs this is one of the most expensive markets in the nation. Just down the highway in Waco, Texas the Scott-White medical system enjoys a near monopoly in the market prices are lower and it has a higher performance ranking than Dallas. In the health care field competition simply means trying to charge more than the guy down the street.

So what do we do? As individuals and as a nation we're facing the prospect of health care bankrupting us. How much lower does America need to fall in the world rankings or how much more of our GDP does it need to cost before we come up with a different system? One highly respected doctor I know predicted decades ago that if America's health care costs ever reached 8% of our GDP, health care would be nationalized. Today it costs more than twice that amount and it continues to grow every day we do nothing to change it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Better Safe Than Sorry

There is an interesting and major difference in the attitudes of Americans and Europeans regarding products. In America we let almost everything come to market in order to let the free enterprise system work and if there are any safety problems, well, those will show up later. Europeans take much safer (and wiser in my opinion) attitude and assume everything is dangerous and only allow a product to be sold if it's been proven safe.

This issue comes to mind again with the recent publication in Pediatrics magazine about the dangers of the widely-used chemical bisphenol-A (BPA). In a recent study it was shown that exposure to BPA even before birth can impact the health of a child. Preschool-age children whose mothers had relatively high levels of BPA during pregnancy scored worse (but still within "normal" range) on behavior measures. These behaviors included anxiety and hyperactivity.

Meanwhile the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to study BPA exposure.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sickness in Health Care

When you read a lot of health care news (as I do) there are times you run across really sickening stories. Today I read about a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine done with Harvard University and Dartmouth Medical School researchers about dementia patient care. It seems that almost 20% of hospitalizations by nursing homes may have been motivated not by their concerns over patient health but simply by money.

It seems Medicare pays three times more for nursing homes to care for patients after brief hospitalizations. The transfer rate varied from just 2% in Alaska to 37% in Louisiana. In McAllen, Texas 26% of the study participants had multiple trips to the hospital for conditions that can easily be treated in a nursing home like urinary infections, pneumonia and dehydration. Only 1% of the patients in Grand Junction, Colorado were transferred to hospitals for the same conditions.

For some nursing homes to take advantage of the weakest and sickest in our society speaks volumes about the state of our health care system. Too often it's all about the money, not the people.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rising Costs

This isn't going to come as a surprise to anyone paying for health insurance today, but the costs continue to rise. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation family plan premiums are now up to $15,073 on average, an increase of 9%. This is triple the growth just last year.

Increases for single employees grew 8% to $5,429 per year. Premium increases have had a starring role in the ongoing health care debate. Before the new health care law the insurance company WellPoint tried to raise rates in California by 39%.

All of this while America has an unemployment rate over 9%. Some reports put the unemployment rate for men 44-62 at 25% or above Great Depression levels.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fun & Fit Interview Airs Starting Today

My latest interview was on the Fun & Fit show on WomensRadio which started airing today. It really was a lot of fun to talk with identical twins Kymberly and Alexandra, they really do enjoy being radio stars!

When you check out their website be sure to click on their Facebook fan page to enter the contest to win a free autographed copy of my book.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Health Care Costs

Interesting article in the current issue of the Harvard Business Review about the escalating costs of health care. The Big Idea: How to Solve The Cost Crisis in Health Care has a very simple core concept. We can't reduce the cost of health care because we're measuring the wrong things in the wrong way. It would at least be a place to start.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Obesity Epidemic

There's been a lot of noise in the media for quite some time about the obesity epidemic in America. All sorts of fingers are pointed at possible culprits like the over-sized portions served in restaurants, our lack of exercise, etc. But there's one issue that's been completely ignored and that's what's been done to us.

To preserve freshness in the food chain bisphenol-A, or BPA for short, was added to many commonly used products like food and beverage containers, baby bottles, dental sealants, even the lining of food cans. Research done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently showed BPA present in 95% of the people studied. Yet the media has ignored how BPA can cause obesity as demonstrated in experiments done at Duke University with the Agouti Mice.

How much of America's obesity epidemic is caused by industry's use of BPA? More important, why isn't the media talking about it? Since the food industry is one of the biggest advertisers today could the media be concerned about alienating their client?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Health Care Costs and U.S. Debt

The current debt debate in Washington is bringing the issue of health care costs to the front burner again. Today we're spending more than $2.7 trillion or $8,650 per capita on health care, about $1 out of every $6 in our economy. In just 9 more years, by 2020, the figure is going to rise to $1 out of every $5 ($13,710 per capita) or 20% of our nation's entire Gross Domestic Product at $4.7 trillion.

Obviously our country simply cannot afford such a bill. It's not only medical innovations and an aging population that are driving medical costs up, but virtually every part of health care continues to escalate in cost beyond normal inflation. As a doctor at the Mayo Clinic said in a PBS special on health care a few years ago "As a society we simply can't afford to give everyone every medical treatment available." Some call that rationing health care. Every other industrialized country in the world calls that common sense, especially when the vast majority of costs occur in the last few years of life when the quality of life is the lowest.

Join in the discussion, it's your country. Call your elected representatives and let them know what you think, it's the only way they'll it. Later you can vote to hold them accountable!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

U. S. Life Expectancy

The U.S. life expectancy rate continues to improve (for the most part) but we continue to fall behind the rest of the world. WGN-TV got the story right today, noting that for women the U.S. longevity rate ranks #33 in the world while the rate for men ranks #37. CBS and most of the mainstream media failed to report the whole story. To support mainstream medicine and Big Pharma they only said our life expectancy rate continues to improve.

Thanks to WGN-TV for remembering what journalism is all about. Some folks, probably mainly Chicagoans, know that WGN comes from the Chicago Tribune which was called the World's Greatest Newspaper (WGN).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

First EFT Interview

Tina Craig's first interview is on the UnBreak Your Health podcast! Tina is the daughter of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) creator Gary Craig and she's taking over the family business, sort of. When Gary retired last year he declined to endorse any particular school of EFT but he did say on his website that the closest thing to learning EFT from the source was his daughter's program.

Tina has created a new set of EFT training classes with the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP). The entire, original, 3-level training series is now part of the first level of EFT training. Levels 2 and 3 offer new material never available before.

Check out the newest show on the UnBreak Your Health podcast program!

Cell Phone Danger

The cell phone industry has been crowing for ages that none of the major health agencies have issued any warnings about their products. That ended yesterday when the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report (actually a review of many studies and reports) warning that cell phones are "possibly carcinogenic" and cautioned about their use. Since we've only had cell phones for about two decades the real long-term dangers are yet to be seen.

There's a reason that San Francisco passed an ordinance requiring all cell phones sold in the city to display the amount of radiation they produce. We probably need to have that made a national law, consider it a kind of truth in packaging.

Children are especially vulnerable to radiation since their bodies are smaller, their skulls are thinner and their brains are still growing. Parents should insist on a wired ear piece for their kids, require that the phone not be near their bed at night and suggest texting instead of talking on the phone (kids prefer it anyway).

Cell phones are one ingredient in what Dr. Martha Grout calls "electrosmog" that threatens our health today. Her new book An Alphabet of Good Health in a sick world covers cell phone radiation and many other useful topics.

Use your cell phone at your own risk!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Recovering The Self

My latest podcast featuring Dr. Martha Grout, co-author of An Alphabet of Good Health in a sick world is mentioned in the new edition of Recovering The Self!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Medical Reporting

Medical reporting on TV news today really is pretty sad. Last night I happened to catch the same story on all 3 networks about an autism study done in South Korea. NBC had the most disjointed report, one that included several generalizations and unsubstantiated claims. ABC had the shortest take on the story. CBS had the best report but it implied that the autism rates in South Korea translated into a dramatic rise in undiagnosed autism in America.

Not one story recognized that the dietary, cultural and other differences between our two countries could make any extrapolation of the autism rate in South Korea meaningless in America. They were all happy to report the press release almost as written to create a sense of urgency in our country. This new sense of urgency will eventually translate into more prescriptions for drugs.

Watching the same story reported three different ways was an educational experience which only confirmed once again the sad state of journalism in America today, especially when the subject is medicine.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Billion-Dollar Patient Care Initiative

Some local news with national ramifications today. The Department of Health & Human Services announced a new $1 billion health care initiative called Partnership for Patients. The goal is to reduce hospital mistakes that injure or even kill patients. If successful the program could save up to $35 billion.

Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas has been chosen as the bulls-eye of this target to improve health care. Baylor was selected as one of the dozen locations for the program because their Dallas heart and vascular hospital has the nation's lowest readmission rate so it's starting from a higher plateau than most hospitals. The goal of the program is to reduce hospital mistakes by 40% and readmissions by 20%.

We're even going to get to look at the results of the program and judge its cost effectiveness for ourselves because the data will be posted at

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wellness Authors Show Interview

Yea! My interview on the Wellness Authors Show starts today and will run through Tuesday.

Pediatricians Wake Up

Rarely do I compliment doctors but the recent action by the American Academy of Pediatricians merits a definite "thumbs up." The group has condemned a 1976 federal law that stupidly relies on chemical companies to raise concerns about their products. (When was the last time you saw a company voluntarily raise safety concerns about its own products?) Unlike prescription drugs which must pass safety review the Toxic Substance Control Act limits the government from ordering testing or banning industrial chemicals.

Pediatricians have finally opened their eyes to the health problems being caused by the ever-expanding world of toxic chemicals. Because children are smaller and still developing they're especially at risk to toxic chemicals. Even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admits it knows very little about the thousands of chemicals being produced each year.

As more and more chemicals are created no one knows how they're going to interact with the thousands of chemicals already in our environment today, or how we're going to react to this growing toxic mix. It's time to put at least some minimum oversight on this problem before it's too late.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

DRUGS - ABC News Lead Story April 20th

I was pleased to see ABC Nightly News lead off the program with the story about America's growing prescription drug habit last night. (Interesting so many other media have ignored the story ... to their advertiser's delight.) In the past decade prescription drug use for pain has soared more than 50%, to the point that we now consume 80% of those drugs in the world.

Prescription drug overdoses have become a huge problem ... more people are killed with these drugs today than crack cocaine did in the 1980's or black tar heroin in the 1970's. Pain clinics are now passing out pills like M&M's with Florida being ground zero for the problem.

What does the DEA proposed to correct this problem? More education for doctors! Do they seriously think doctors don't know what they're doing? They're making money. More education for the drug supplier isn't going to solve the problem but more education for drug consumers about the addictive power of these drugs might. Maybe people will begin to realize that all drugs carry risks and we'll begin to reverse our drug-obsessed health care system in this country.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lifestyle vs. Money for Health

There's an interesting story in 24/7 Wall Street comparing how much countries spend on health care and their resulting longevity. As expected, the United States fares poorly. We spend more than anyone else by a long shot but don't live as long as most other industrialized countries. What makes the article interesting is that it highlights the importance of lifestyle.

Japan was rated as the best and they spend only 8.1% of GDP on health care compared to the nearly 17% spent by the United States. However more important is the fact that just 3.4% of Japan's population is obese compared with 34% in America. In short, lifestyle matters.

As much as we need to change our health care system it's even more important that we change our lifestyle.

Friday, April 15, 2011

First Chapter Plus

The new issue of First Chapter Plus is out and my book is still listed in the Past Releases section. Yeah! One of the nice things about the Internet is you can hang around for a long, long time.

Guess it doesn't hurt that Susan and I will be guest hosting Authors Access on the 21st either. Never hurts to have friends in high places!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

GAO Criticizes FDA

The General Accounting Office (GAO) has criticized the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for being too lenient in clearing critical, life sustaining devices. Meanwhile device manufacturers complain the U.S. is too slow compared to other countries.

The GAO told Congress this week that the approvals remain a serious issue even though it was raised more than two years ago. It should be noted that the device manufacturers major trade association, AdvaMed, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying against any new device regulations.

Senate Aging Committee Chairman Herb Kohl, D-WI, said, "The drive toward getting new technologies to market shouldn't be done at the risk of patient safety."

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Dangers of Mainstream Medicine

Is it ignorance or something more sinister when the medical profession doesn't realize how many mistakes are being made in hospitals today? When a small fraction of medical errors are being caught and reported is it to protect their standing on the pedestal of public opinion or fear of reprisal from the medical profession? These are just a few of the questions resulting from a recent report published in Health Affairs that up to 90% of mistakes are not caught and reported with current patient safety systems.

Using the Global Trigger Tool designed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement to review records at major hospitals across the country 345 hospital errors were discovered from a pool of 795 records. Current reporting systems found between 4 and 35 mistakes. Are doctors, nurses and hospitals really so inept or is this an example of intentionally looking the other way?

In any case this new information should give every patient pause when they consider putting their life into the hands of "modern" medicine. Don't be afraid to speak up if you feel something is wrong! Doctors and nurses can't walk on water, they're human beings prone to fatigue, emotions and many other reasons that cause them to make serious errors that can result in death or permanent disability.

After all, it's your life or the life of a loved one.

Isn't it interesting that so few media outlets even reported this story?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

U.S. Life Expectancy Rising But Falling

Recently the media had a wonderful feel-good story about how the life expectancy in the U.S. has increased according to preliminary government figures from 78 years in 2008 to 78.2 years today. They were practically gleeful in their proclamation that a child born today can expect to live longer than ever in U.S. history.

But they weren't telling the whole truth, as usual. I could not find a media story that included the fact that our ranking in the world for longevity continues to fall. While our longevity rate has improved the rest of the world is improving even more and faster. It used to be the U.S. ranked #38 for longevity but according to the CIA's World Fact Book the current estimate would put us at #51, behind Taiwan and ahead of Bahrain. By comparison #1 Monaco has a life expectancy of 89.73 years.

As long as we're on the subject of living longer, did you know that 29% of our population 0r 65.7 people today are caregivers? That number is expected to continue to grow as our population ages. Caregivers spend around $5,500 out of their own pockets every year and out-of-state caregivers will spend even more, about $8,700. Those are serious numbers and the reason many people worry about the impact it will have on their own retirement. Planning for the future was never more important.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The China Study Podcast

You've probably already heard about an amazing book called The China Study. It's one of the most important books ever written about nutrition and health. It's the culmination of a 20-year partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. Written by T. Colin Campbell, PhD. along with his youngest son Tom, it shows how cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other health problems are caused by diet. Even former President Clinton has been on national TV saying how this book has improved his health and helped him lose weight.

Dr. Campbell has been at the bleeding edge of nutritional research for more than 40 years and is current Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. He as authored more than 300 research papers. Listening to him explain his research and the current state of health in America will open your eyes to a new world of better health.

Check out this free, 22-minute interview, the 74th program on UnBreak Your Health.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Medicine for People or for Profit?

If you were one of the 800,000 people each year who suffer a stroke and one of the 2/3 who have trouble walking ... which would you rather do: Have someone come to your home and work with you to improve your walking or go to a physical therapy facility and work with a state-of-the-art treadmill or other bit of technology? Turns out working with someone at home is just as effective.

The largest study ever on stroke rehabilitation was led by Duke University researchers. Their findings were presented recently at a recent American Stroke Association conference.

While high-tech equipment is popular with hospitals, and very expensive, it doesn't necessarily provide any better results. More important, fewer patients dropped out of the home therapy, just 3% vs. 13% for equipment programs. Fancy equipment usually takes 2 or 3 therapists to work with a patient while the at-home therapy requires just 1.

Just one more example showing us that medicine has become big business (nearly 17% of America's GDP) instead of focusing on what's good for patients.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Your Brain on Cellphone

Is there any good radiation for your brain? Given the fact that researchers at the National Institutes of Health have discovered that a cellphone changes the activity of your brain it appears to be a real question since they claim they aren't sure if the radiation is harmful. The study is in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Several researchers have already raised concerns and questions about cellphone radiation, especially with children. The question appears to be how many research studies will it take for Americans to recognize the danger?

One way to reduce the risk is simply to use a headset, preferably wired, which moves the cellphone's radiation away from your brain.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

CAM Safety vs. Prescription Drugs

People who dislike complementary and alternative medicine often claim that it's dangerous. Today the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will demonstrate that it's prescription drugs that are the real danger.

Drug overdoses continue to climb at an alarming rate, up five-fold since 1990. In 2007 alone 27,000 people died from prescription drug overdoses. To put that number into perspective: prescription drugs now cause more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined!

Next time someone says CAM is dangerous ask them how many people died from using complementary and alternative medicine.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Zinc Helps A Cold After All

It turns out that zinc can reduce the duration and severity of a cold after all. A new meta-review of medical research shows that when taken within 24 hours of the first signs of a cold (sneezing, coughing ... you know the drill) zinc can shorten a cold by a day and reduce the symptoms.

One of the studies cited in the review was a March 2008 report published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases which showed that zinc could reduce a cold from 7 days to just 4 and reduce the coughing from 5 days to just 2. If you're suffering with a cold these a major improvements!

You probably won't hear much about this on the evening news because the medical industry doesn't want you to know about a non-prescription option that works. Your doctor wants you to come in for another $$$ visit instead of simply picking up some zinc from the supermarket!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

WJJG Interview

I'll be on WJJG -AM in Chicago on Thursday, February 17th at 1:30 p.m. This is going to be a fun interview since I basically grew up in the Chicago area. Tune in!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The China Study

You've probably already heard about the book The China Study and its amazing research into nutrition and health ... and how we can control cancer. The author, T. Colin Campbell, PhD. has been interviewed on The McCuistion Report for public television in a special 2-part series. For those of you who prefer TV to reading this is your opportunity to discover some of the most important health information in decades.

(Even though I don't include diet and supplements in my book, I do pay attention to the topics.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Finally getting back to doing interviews for my podcast show again ... took a few weeks off for other projects. My first new one since last year is with Dr. Ray Martina, well-known holistic doctor and author of 40 self-help books, CDs and DVDs. We talked about his newest book, Emotional Balance: The Path to Inner Peace and Harmony which is already out in Europe but will be coming to America in March. You'll find the interview at UnBreak Your Health - The Podcast.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Nobel Scientist Supports Homeopathy

When a Nobel Prize-winning scientist produces research normally folks pay attention. Apparently when it challenges the medical status quo that's not necessarily the case. Dana Ullman writes in the Huffington Post recently about Dr. Luc Montagnier, the French virologist who won the Nobel Prize in 2008 for discovering the AIDS virus, and his article in the magazine Science about his experiments on the mechanisms involved in homeopathy.

Scientists today don't just dislike homeopathy, they loathe it. In their mechanical world it's impossible to have any health impact when elements are diluted beyond a reasonable level. They discount any other scientific explanations for the effects of homeopathy and completely ignore their own ignorance of any other possibilities.

Ullman's article makes for fascinating reading for those with an open mind.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

U.S. Life Expectancy Lags

A report published on Tuesday by the National Research Council shows that while life expectancy has risen in America over the past 25 years, it hasn't risen as fast as other countries. The poor performance now puts the U.S. behind 21 other countries. The report notes that the results are in contrast to America's spending more on health care than any other nation. However the focus in health care in our country has been on extending life rather than prevention.

How many reports is it going to take before people (especially politicians) stop saying America has the best health care in the world? We have the most expensive health care in the world.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Overdiagnosed Healthcare

Overdiagnosed,” is an interesting new book by Dartmouth professor H. Gilbert Welch and co-authors Lisa Schwartz and Steven Woloshin. It's all about the hazards of looking too hard for health problems in healthy people. Bottom line: those additional tests and procedures offer no benefit but can result in real harm, certainly higher health-care costs and the simple psychological damage of being told you’re sick. This is part of the problem with our upside-down health care system.

Friday, January 14, 2011

FDA Restrictions

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has asked prescription drug manufacturers to limit the amount of acetaminophen to 325 milligrams. The move is in response to the increased risk of liver damage from the drug and to the amount used in a wide variety of over-the-counter medications. In other words, we're getting too much of acetaminophen from a wide range of sources.

It's a start.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Health Costs Continue to Grow

Talk about Good News/Bad News! The "good" news: Health care costs in America ONLY increased by 4% in 2009. The "bad" news is that it now represents 17.6% of our nation's total economic output (GDP)! The jump of 1% from 2008 to 2009 was the largest one-year increase in 50 years of tracking the statistic.

More "good" news is that it probably would've been much worse if we hadn't been in a huge economic downturn during the year. With high unemployment and economic uncertainty many elective procedures were postponed and even necessary treatments delayed resulting in lower demand for medical services. Slowing demand effectively held down cost increases for the year.

Controlling health care costs is one of the biggest challenges facing America today.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

America's Wellness Network

What a great way to start 2011! I'm a guest blogger on America's Wellness Network talking about how to use complementary and alternative therapies to make New Year's Resolutions more successful this year. Read article here.