A heavy bag strains my shoulder these days as I lug around reams of articles and notes, hoping to catch a few minutes here and there studying for my first U.S. health care survey exam. My mind swirls with loaded phrases that succinctly describe why our country needs health care reform, unless we want to sink under $2.5 trillion-plus annual spending in a system that doesn’t work.
Know what I mean? Parlez-vous HC-speak? Let me unload a bit:
- Sick care system: That’s a more accurate term for America than the ubiquitous “health care system,” because bigger money is made treating illness than keeping our population well.
- Being uninsured is bad for your health: So is being poor or a racial minority in a system plagued by health disparities.
- We’re #37: That’s where the WHO ranks us on population health, even though we spend 16 percent of our GDP on health care, much more than any country. (Want to sing it?)
- Paradox of excess and deprivation: Inequalities, especially deep divisions between haves and have-nots, drive our miserable overall health status.
- Geography is destiny: Your health outcome could depend on the number and kinds of doctors where you live, as well as on your environmental stressors.
- The worried well: The economically privileged people who utilize health care services extensively, because they can.
- A built bed is a billed bed: Infrastructure-heavy investments in hospitals and equipment drive “supply-sensitive” spending more in some areas than others.
- Technological imperative: Expensive diagnostic equipment, once purchased, likely will be used–and Medicare will be billed.
- Bending the cost curve: This is what the Obama administration hopes to achieve with reform. Costs will continue to rise, but maybe not at such a steep rate.
If there’s any single image that stays with me most from the hundreds of graphs in Professor Rich Lichtenstein’s lectures this month, it’s this one on what’s killing us now, instead of the infectious diseases of yore:
See that big yellow piece of the pie? Behavior patterns (the food we eat, the exercise we skip, the risks we take) exacerbate chronic conditions and bring us down. Years of lost life are a result, along with many unproductive disability-affected years. I believe wider insurance coverage and Medicare reform are urgent national priorities, but so is living healthier any way we can.