Society

Healthcare, Costs, and the Elephant in the Room

It’s that time of year again. Healthcare costs are rising and once again, of course, it’s entirely our fault and we must be punished. We’re too fat and have an unhealthy diet. We aren’t controlling our diabetes and blood pressure. We smoke and drink too much. We need to exercise and reduce our stress, etc., etc. Preventative Healthcare is preached like a fiery sermon from the pulpit of healthcare professionals, the insurance industry, employers, companies, and health nuts. But…there’s an elephant in the room that isn’t acknowledged nearly enough regarding responsibility for health and healthcare costs.

There are numerous chemicals and substances that we are exposed to everyday – way too many to list here. They’re everywhere – in our homes, workplaces, water, air, and even the food we eat. Many aren’t going to have adverse effects in the short-term, but what about years from now? It’s impossible to predict future potential consequences for individuals as we aren’t all carbon copies of one another. There are too many variables and too many unknowns. What affects one person down the road may not affect another in the same way.

It’s common for it to be claimed that many substances pose no risk, or that the risk is low, but no one really knows that for sure. These are comfort words, meant to reassure the public and downplay any possible negative impacts. But many people are diagnosed with a terminal illness that has no obvious cause. The disease can’t be linked to their lifestyle, and it doesn’t run in their family. So what else could be possible causes? Why is it beyond belief that exposure to a chemical or substance possibly acted as a trigger? Given the sheer amount of these in existence it’s hard to imagine that even the “safe” ones are safe.

There’s an obvious reluctance to look beyond the individual for answers unless forced to do so. It doesn’t happen too often, but once in a while it does. Remember the Flint water crisis from last year? According to an examination done by Reuters, lead poisoning rates in almost 3,000 areas have higher rates of lead poisoning than Flint. A lot of attention was briefly focused on the problem in Flint, but what of the other communities? As buildings and infrastructure continue to age, more of these problems will be forced into the limelight. Most communities don’t have the funds to correct problems. Maintenance and replacement of worn out and obsolete infrastructure has not been kept up with. We’re expected to practice preventative maintenance on ourselves at all costs, yet when many communities had the money they didn’t do the same with their infrastructure.

While the long-term effects of lead poisoning are well known and documented, this is not true of all the substances and chemicals we are exposed to. More long-term studies are needed, but even those come with a hitch. We like to think of studies as being thoroughly scientific and objective, but that’s not always the case. It depends on where the funding for the study is coming from. As with so much in this world – follow the money. Those who fund studies generally want the results to reflect their own agendas or beliefs.

Companies spend a lot of money developing new chemicals and products and they don’t want negative results. Nor do they want to assume responsibility for any possible ill effects from ingredients in their products, technologies they employ, or man-made disasters that occur. Unless an event is too big to be contained and kept quiet about, then it usually is. Is that a denial of responsibility?

There are two lines of reasoning used in defense of all these potential hazards in our world. One is improvement to our lives through new products or practices, and the other is providing jobs, and it can be really hard to argue with these. We all want to see improvements to our lives, and jobs are necessary for economic health.

Yet all too often, in satisfying one or both of these, there is an environmental and human price to be paid. There’s always a trade-off, and risks are always downplayed for as long as possible. We have nuclear power plants that are leaking and oil spills occurring that aren’t being widely reported so many are unaware of what is happening. Think these don’t cause high economic losses and costs along with potential health hazards? Why wouldn’t they? I don’t think it’s necessary for any of us to be a scientist or some other industry “professional” to have valid concerns and questions.

As individuals we are expected to be responsible for own health, but we are also parts of a whole. In other words, we don’t live isolated existences where there are no outside factors to affect us. In many respects we live at the whim of those with influence. Products are developed and policies and practices pursued whose long-term safety is questionable. Pay close attention to what corporations and politicians are doing and saying, and do some research. But it’s easier and far better to place the blame on individuals. We must be doing something wrong, right? Not to mention that we’re being unreasonable to even think about questioning anything we are told – or sold.

And so, we must be punished. Higher insurance premiums, higher deductibles, less coverage and less choices, “wellness” control mechanisms so we can have slightly lower deductibles, penalty taxes, and yet more sermons – year after year. All of this makes us as hamsters in a wheel, because no matter what we do or change, these will not. We will always be the bad guys in the healthcare movie. And remember, what matters are that we all have health insurance. It doesn’t matter that we can’t really afford to use it. But that’s another elephant in the room.

Resources:

Reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-lead-testing

Cancer.org/known and probable human carcinogens

Journalist Resource.org/harmful chemicals and neurotoxins: silently eroding intelligence, damaging societies

usnews.com/nuclear-plants-leak-radiation-and-regulator-faces-scrutiny

There are many other resources – these a just a few.