A recent article in a United Kingdom newspaper reported the National Health Service (NHS) is considering delaying procedures for a particular class of individuals such as the obese and smokers.
In the United States, there are rumblings about health care rationing with the Affordable Care Act. Could this be the way of the future in Australia?
In 1983, following the experience in Canada, Australia introduced Medicare, a universal health care system, though it retained a private system as well. At the time some people thought a broad-based system would strain government coffers. It was not because of a lack of empathy for people’s health, but a concern about the long-term affordability.
As it turns out the cost of medical care, in particular with the ageing population continues to cause financial stress for governments.
In light of accelerating health care costs, governments are starting to look at cost cutting options. However, once we start down the slippery slope of restricting certain procedures to certain people, where do we stop? Do we deny care to those who spend x number of hours in front of a computer? Are we to penalise those who buy soft drinks? Big brother — government in this case — can be more intrusive when it is paying the bills.
One thing the government might consider is having an income threshold for Medicare. People who are well off earning a very comfortable income would probably be happy to pay for doctors visits either out of their pocket or through a private insurer.
This alone would be a considerable saving of health care costs for the government. We can also do some things ourselves where we take more personal responsibility for our health.
Exercise… and then exercise
The evidence is overwhelming now that regular exercise at any age reduces pain, enhances overall health and increases longevity. There is no reason not to exercise unless you are severely disabled, but even then, many can still work out on some level.
The choices that you have today are abundant. There is swimming, water aerobics, water walking, pump classes, Pilates, jogging, cycling, walking and Tai Chi, just to name a few.
If you are not exercising, start now. If you are exercising either increase the frequency or the intensity, depending on your age and your general state of health.
Consult with your health care professional to ensure that what you intend to do is not going to have any detrimental effects.
Conservative or Alternative Care
If you have an issue that can be addressed with something other than surgery, not only is that a cost saving to the system, but it is also beneficial to you as surgery can have unwanted and severe complications.
During my years as a chiropractor, there were numerous instances where patients had severe back problems resolve with chiropractic. There were times where the patient had surgery recommended or even scheduled, and never went through with it as the problem healed without the need for more radical procedures.
What to eat is a real conundrum today because there are so many conflicting messages out there. Some promote a high protein diet as the answer to health and wellness. Others advocate a diet high in carbohydrates. Can they both be right? We have a friend who eats a high carbohydrate diet and still jogs in his 70s.
Some people advocate buying this nutritional supplement or that, each saying that their product is the answer. The problem is that we are all unique individuals. Our bodies are not cookie-cutter replicas of each other. What works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another.
The answer is to have a principle of ‘do no harm’. Avoid or minimise the amount of highly processed and sugary foods. Sure, some people can get away with it, but for most, living off Coca-Cola and cakes will lead to long-term health consequences.
You can see that we can all be pro-active and take control of our own health which means less reliance on government. It is important to do this as the ageing population explodes.
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