Health care will be in the news this year, specifically how to provide health care access to the millions of Americans who currently don’t have insurance or who are underinsured, such as through the “discounted” benefit plans or through Health Service Accounts (HSAs).  The latter have become popular with employer groups who are trying to reduce their health benefit costs by placing the onus of the responsibility on their employees.  This is somewhat the form that existed before there were insurance companies and the associated insurance “premiums.”  People paid for necessary services out-of-pocket and, if necessary, made payment arrangements with the providers for services that were not immediately affordable. 

Somewhere in the process there were times when grateful patients paid for services in goods they themselves had grown or produced.  These times will never return, of course.  We truly need to develop a rational approach that will provide universal access to services with a means of payment within reach of all people and reimbursement acceptable to all types of health care providers.

In California, this year will see at least four ideas proposed in the legislature, including one from Governor Schwarzenegger; but the only truly feasible one is still SB 840 offered by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (see item below).  The other proposals are piecemeal, more costly and less efficient than necessary and simply “band-aids.”

But I want to propose another form of responsibility for health care that is seldom discussed.  It is obviously not a popular idea or it would be accepted widely, which it isn’t, for reasons that social scientists perhaps would have some explanation – we simply do not want to take responsibility for our own health, by which I mean taking those steps that would obviate the need for extensive insurance coverage at all.

We have become too reliant on the medical-pharmaceutical complex to take care of our medical needs.  When asking a group of people whether they have a “health plan,” many will readily state that they do and will specify that they have Blue Cross, Aetna, Health Net, etc. or a third party administrative arrangement through an employer or union.

What I mean by a “health plan” is simply a personal plan for getting and staying healthy.  There are hundreds of books published on the subject as well as a myriad of infomercials touting products to prevent disease and health food stores with aisles of products and information.   The only difficult part is to simplify it all so that it doesn’t seem like such a monumental task to maintain health and so that we don’t spend excessive amounts on things that simply aren’t what they claim to be.

After nearly 40 years of study and investigation into the subject of health and wellness, I’ve narrowed the process down into some simple steps, most of which require no additional spending.  The following mnemonic will help remember the elements of the plan:

W – Water, an essential element.  Our body’s cells are mostly water and remaining properly hydrated is key to health.  Most water in the US is acceptable, some is better than others as measured by impurities and Ph level (optimal is 7.0-7.2 range).  Much of the bottled water is no better than what comes from the tap.  Water is a basic part of nutrition in general, which is probably the toughest element to address.  We like to eat and we like “tasty” foods, which generally means fatty foods.  I have investigated and tried a variety of approaches to a health diet and have ended up taking the best information and applying it the best I can to daily practices.  For a period of about 5 years I was religiously vegan and other than an initial drastic weight loss, I didn’t realize much difference in overall health.  In fact, my cholesterol level, which was one of my primary reasons for doing this, didn’t drop at all.

E – Exercise. Another tough one.  It is scientifically proven that with proper nutrition and exercise, we will maintain appropriate weight and overall health.  Again, I’ve tried numerous programs and equipment, which usually ends up in one of our garage sales.  It’s obvious just by looking at the general population that regular exercise is not a priority for most people. Proper exercise will help with rest or relaxation.  Our world is moving very fast and we are expected to keep up with it.  Well, what would happen if we didn’t.  Sleeping is the only time that our bodies can regenerate and you can’t “catch up on it.”  Lost sleep is lost. 

L – Laughter.  We take life much too seriously.  “Laughter is the best medicine” has been addressed in many ways and I personally find it so.  If necessary, I’ll pull out a funny video to watch and just laugh out loud.  It puts everything into perspective.

L – Love.  This is very simple.  Unfortunately, love is misunderstood and, in fact, can be taken to mean something that is detrimental.  The closest true meaning of “love” is forgiveness. 

It’s everyone’s responsibility to learn the path and the answers for themselves. Finding the personal motivation is key. I have no fear of death; but I don’t want to be in pain, in a nursing home or be taken care of by a family member or friend. That’s what keeps me “on the plan.”

Again, it is just information and each person is responsible for exploring for themselves and implementing what works for them. Our health is our responsibility. Just remember the fourth of the Four Agreements, always do your best.

This is an extremely brief summary.  Each element can be expanded upon and discussed, which my wife and I do occasionally in individual or group sessions. Anyone interested in this can do so in a response to this web log item.

Thank you.

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