(After writing this I decided to add this disclaimer at the top: I believe a modern, civil society has a moral obligation to care for the sick. However, each individual in such a society also has a moral obligation to do his or her part not to invite illness and disease into his or her life.)
Good health starts with healthy habits. Healthy habits are a personal responsibility. Eating right and exercising are personal choices–personal choices that far too few Americans choose to make. Despite the millions of dollars spent each year on gym memberships, fitness products, and fad diets, Americans continue to be overweight and unhealthy. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, back pain, knee pain, and not a few types of cancer, can often be traced directly back to poor choices when it comes to diet and exercise.
If we truly wanted to reduce the cost of healthcare, we would make a national vow to mend our errant ways. A healthy populace needs very little in the way of healthcare. Instead, we look to our government to solve the healthcare problem. Guess what? They can’t solve it. They can provide more health services to more people. They can make sure more people with unhealthy habits have access to medications that ease the symptoms caused by those habits. They cannot make us more healthy. I support universal healthcare, yet I know that even if people are provided the opportunity to receive preventative care, they won’t necessarily take advantage of it.
Of course, there is little incentive to ask Americans to take personal responsibility for their own health. Pharmaceutical companies don’t want you healthy: they need you to buy their drugs. Health care facilities don’t want you healthy: they want your money for all the services they provide. Health insurance companies don’t want you healthy: they want your premiums. Health industry retailers don’t want you healthy: they want you to keep buying product after worthless product.
Almost 2 trillion dollars are spent on healthcare in the U.S. each year. Two trillion dollars looks like this:
Those are two times twelve zeros of reasons why the healthcare industry really has no interest in people taking personal responsibility for their health.
If, as a nation, we chose to be healthy instead of unhealthy, what impact would that have on the cost and availability of healthcare? Personally, I think it would reduce the burdens on the current system, reduce costs, and allow us to provide healthcare to everyone when they needed it. Disease and illness certainly can strike at any time. We can’t prevent all sickness by practicing healthy habits. We can, however, create a society in which health is the norm and medical care for every ill person is also the norm. As it stands, disease is the norm and a huge industry has developed that feeds off that norm. Each of us, individually, has the power to change the way the system works. The government can’t fix it: they can only continue to feed it.