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New social ethos needed for health care

California as the United States is facing an affordability crisis when it comes to purchasing health coverage and care.  Many argue that the best response to bend the cost curve that’s increasingly placing them out of reach for employers and consumers is revamping the current health care system away from the “auto mechanic” model.  In that paradigm, patients are charged incrementally for each visit to the shop and “repair” they need.  Reformers promote an alternative system that provides incentives for health care providers to keep people healthy and relatively free of the effects of chronic disease that account for a large majority of health care spending, particularly as people age into their senior years.  If they are in less than optimal health in early adulthood and middle age, they’ll end up as very costly medical cases in future years.

“It is not possible to develop a medical system that is adequately efficient to resolve California’s affordability crisis if a large percentage of people are developing diabetes—and conditions that often come along with obesity such as depression—in their 30s and 40s,” argues Micah Weinberg of the Bay Area Council in the organization’s report released this month, Roadmap to a High-Value Health System Addressing California’s Healthcare Affordability Crisis.

“Our current food environments and the individual choices we make are creating a tidal wave of disease that our medical system cannot handle effectively and equitably,” Weinberg asserts. “Californians, therefore, must become much more engaged in improving their own health and taking personal responsibility for bringing down their own lifetime healthcare costs so that resources are preserved for those truly in need.”

Weinberg is essentially promoting a new social ethos relative to health care.  One that regards health care as an expensive, finite resource and not a limitless commodity that can be easily modified to respond to consumer demand and market forces.  If we as individuals over utilize health care as the result of poor lifestyle choices, that collectively incurs a major societal cost and worsens the plight of those who need care for illnesses and injuries they could not have avoided.

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