Last week I spent an afternoon going through printouts of my hospital bills from the last few years. After wearing out a few of the keys on my trusty TI-84 calculator, I confirmed what I had only suspected previously: that since May 1, 2005 Medicare, along with a potpourri of state medical assistance programs, has spent just over 1.1 million dollars keeping me alive.
Whether or not this 1.1 million dollar raid on the Social Security Trust Fund, as well as the State of New Mexico’s oil and gas royalties, represents a bargain is a matter of personal opinion. I mention it only to call attention to the promises regarding health care “reform” made by then-candidate Obama during the recently concluded campaign season.
The only problem I foresee regarding health care “reform” is that, in political terminology, “reform” is Orwellian Newspeak for “government meddling.”
Depending on who you talk to, the Obama Administration or some other equally partisan group, “reform” will probably add around 40 million people to an already over-extended health care system. If you think that having to wait 12 hours just to get into an Emergency Room or Urgent Care Clinic is bad, try to think about what adding another 50 people to the line ahead of you will do for your attitude.
I realize that there will be some who believe that more government involvement in health care will lead to cost control through “greater efficiency.” If you believe that line, just talk to any veteran that uses their local Veterans Administration Hospital and see what kind of testimonial to government efficiency that you get. Better yet, visit my old stomping grounds at the Indian Health Service Hospital in Gallup, New Mexico to see what kind of a bureaucratic mess that government supervision of health care can make.
Under Obama’s proposed Economic Recovery Plan, or whatever it’s being called this week, the government proposes to spend $87 billion for the state-run Medicaid programs, $20 billion to improve health information technology, and about $4 billion for improvements in preventative medicine. While this may look good on paper I must ask what the cost will be next year, or in its third year. I can assure you that the 50 states will run through that $87 billion of Medicaid funding in a matter of months! Does Obama’s proposed spending include funding these programs 5 years down the road? And the part about “preventive care” may look like a good idea, but it’s an even bigger joke.
Discovery Health has begun taking registrations for its National Body Challenge 2009, billed as a free, comprehensive weight loss and fitness challenge. The National Body Challenge 2009 aims at providing weight loss tools and inspiration, as well as expert advice and recipes. Discovery Health Channel programming is an integral part of the National Body Challenge 2009.
The January 5-9, 2009, kickoff will feature two competing teams of severely overweight people working with Bally Total Fitness personal trainers, a nutritionist, a therapist under the guidance of fitness expert Dr. Lydie Hazan. The teams’ goal will be to shed a lifetime of unhealthy habits in the span of six months, replacing them with healthy ones.
The National Body Challenge 2009 is not the latest fad diet or reality tv show. What the challenge aims for is educating and supporting viewers on healthy lifestyle changes that can reduce their risk heart disease, stroke and cancer.
This is the 6th annual National Body Challenge so naturally potential participants will want to explore the effectiveness of past year’s challenges.
According to Dr. Pamela Peake, a Discovery Health Channel spokesperson, the 2005 National Body Challenge resulted in a cumulative weight loss of 395,000 pounds (or 197.5 tons) for participants nationwide, almost double the amount lost in 2004.
The National Body Challenge generates a lot of enthusiasm for lifestyle management changes even among those who are not ultimately up to the challenge. On the 3fatchicks blog, 3 bloggers who tried the National Body Challenge in 2007 applauded it as fun and worthwhile, even though 2 of the 3 dropped out.
Testimonials on the Discovery Health Challenge website also praise the benefits of the National Body Challenge. One woman wrote that she lost 65 pounds in 2008, dropping from 208 pounds to 143, and dropping from pants size 19 to 8. Another lamented regaining the 40 pounds lost in the 2008 challenge but expressed determination to lose weight and keep it off as part of the National Body Challenge 2009.
Among the tips from those who have participated in past National Body Challenges: it is not necessary to join Bally’s Total Fitness when the 8 week trial membership expires or to avoid the challenge if there is no Bally’s nearby. Success at the challenge does require exercise but that exercise can be done at home.
Every year, Americans spend $200 billion in prescription drugs. People are taking more drugs, and drugs keep getting more expensive. The same can be said about medical insurance costs, which are so high now that some companies are dropping health benefits altogether.
Not having enough money to pay for their health care, some people are taking potentially fatal risks, such as skipping medications or stretching out their doses. There are, however, various options for people seeking good medical coverage with a tight budget.
When considering the costs of a health plan, you should pay close attention to:
These are the monthly payments you have to make to be in the health plan.
These are the amounts you will need to pay first before the health plan covers the costs.
These are fees you need to pay for each doctor or emergency room visit.
Generally, the lower the costs, the less flexible the plan is. If you want freedom to select any physician or service, you may have to pay high premiums. This type of plan is known as traditional indemnity.
Another option is a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO).
An HMO is not expensive and usually has a broad coverage. Although there are no deductibles-just co-payments-you can only see a doctor approved by the plan. Also, before seeing a specialist you must go to your selected primary care provider, who will refer you to the specialist.
A different plan is known as Preferred Provider Organization (PPO). Usually more expensive than an HMO but less expensive than a traditional indemnity, the PPO plan offers incentives for seeing a doctor within the plan’s network-you may see other physicians but at a higher cost. Both deductibles and co-payments are charged for some of the services.
A mix between an HMO and a PPO is the Point of Service Plan (POS), which costs about the same as a PPO. It is similar to an HMO in that you must choose a primary care provider, but, like a PPO, it lets you go out of the network at a higher cost.
If you don’t have health insurance or have only major medical coverage, you may be eligible for a Health Savings Account (HSA). An HSA is like an IRA, but instead of saving pre-tax money for retirement, you save to pay for medical expenses. The money can be withdrawn at any time for qualified expenses-otherwise you would have to pay taxes. This plan is good for healthy people that rarely use medical services.
Your employer may not offer every type of plan, but you can take some steps to obtain the best price according to your needs:
1. If you want a low premium and have some emergency savings, you can select a deductible between $250 and $500.
2. If you want lower costs in general, choose an HMO with a co-payment of $25.
Other factors that affect the amount of your health insurance premium are the lifetime maximums and the number of benefits in your plan. For example, you will probably want to include dental benefits in your plan, but not vision benefits. These days, health insurance companies offer sophisticated services that most people don’t really need-the more services you pick, the higher your premium will be. So choose wisely.