Friday, July 28, 2006

Paul Zane Pilzer and Wellness

Paul Zane Pilzer's book "The Wellness Revolution - How to Make a Fortune in the Next Trillion Dollar Industry" is a page-turner. When I first bought this book, shortly after it came out in 2003, I literally didn't go to bed until I had read the whole thing.

This book changed my life.

For one thing, it changed my approach to health insurance. Pilzer introduced me to the Health Savings Account (then called the Medical Savings Account) and actually motivated me to write my own book on the HSA.

As Pilzer says, the HSA changes everything. It puts the day-to-day decisions of your healthcare back into your lap. Not with the insurance company.

Look at what happens today with most people. I want to do something about my waistline, so I go to my doctor (because he's in my insurance network, so it's just a $15 co-pay). The doctor says "Here, take this drug" because this drug is covered by my insurance company. Or, so we thought. It turns out, it's a little too new, so my insurance company complains that the doctor should have used an older, cheaper drug and they don't pay me for the prescription. Damn it!

Then I find there are some serious side-effects to this drug. My stomach is constantly upset, I have headaches I didn't have before, my vision is becoming blurry sometimes. What the hell! Yes, I'm starting to lose some pounds, but do I really want that at the expense of all these other symptoms? I start to get discouraged and I quit taking the drug. I go back to the doctor and ask for something else. He gives me a different drug and we start again.

Here I've made a series of bad decisions, in retrospect. First of all, doctors are not very knowledgeable about weight loss. Second, taking a drug to lose weight is helping with the symptom (overweight) but not with the cause (eating too much, wrong foods, toxic colon, don't exercise, etc.). And I'm making all these decisions BECAUSE it's covered by insurance.

But what if I had a high-deductible health plan, let's say $5,000? What would my decisions be then for this annoying but not immediately life-threatening problem?

Well, for me, I would probably take a much longer term view. First, I'd probably go to see a naturopathic physician instead of an MD. They know much more about weight loss. Second, they would NEVER give me a drug for weight loss, they'd help me change my habits (exercise, eating, toxicity, etc.). THe prescriptions would be herbs, etc. not drugs. Thus, the side-effects would be minimized or non-existant.

And, if I stuck to them, they would work in most cases. Plus, I've addressed the causes, not just the symptoms.

The Health Savings Account (HSA) gives us a way to have a high-deductible health plan without the risk. You can put savings into the HSA each year, and build it up until you have enough to cover your high deductible. If your yearly deductible is $5,000, you'd need to have $5,000 in your HSA. You can take as long as you want to build that up, or you can do it all at once.

In Pilzer's book, he takes us through this logic, and shows how it will push us all towards more holistic options. In essence, using this financial vehicle, the HSA, can actually MAKE YOU HEALTHIER! How amazing is that?

Pilzer takes us through all the business opportunities in this field. From food (organic, etc.) to insurance to what he calls "wellness distribution," the chances are good to make money in these areas.

I think Pilzer has done an amazing public service with this book. He changed my own thinking so much it shifted my own insurance approach, my healthcare approach and even my own businesses. I can't think of too many books that have had that kind of impact on me in my life, maybe 1 or 2.

However, let me say what I found wrong with Pilzer's book too.

Pilzer comes from the multi-level marketing community, he's written several books in that ilk. To me, the MLM or network marketing approach IS NOT the wave of the future. There are too many companies in this area that operate unscrupulously, and as a result, the whole sector stinks to high heaven. Yes, I know there are a few good MLM companies, but I do not think they are representative of MLM.

Having said that, I'm happy to report that Pilzer does not stress the MLM aspect a whole lot in Wellness Revolution. The undertone is there, even in the subtitle "Make Your Fortune..." but he doesn't harp on it.

And I feel the overall focus of the book, rather than showing how we could "make our fortune" could have been more instructive if it was focused on what the consumer could do to switch to this lifestyle effectively.

That is where I decided to go with my book "Health Insurance Off the Grid - A Wonderful Way to Use Alternative Medicine and Save Money on Insurance Using the New Health Savings Account (HSA)."

I took Pilzer's ideas and changed the perspective from the businessperson to the consumer. My audience is especially the holistic consumer. The person who is interested in holistic healthcare options, like naturopathy, yoga, acupuncture, etc. - but doesn't use it much because it "isn't covered by my insurance."

I would also say that my audience is exactly the set of people who are underserved by insurance today - self-employed, underinsured, uninsured. These people benefit most from my book, and from the whole HSA approach.

Another big problem I have with Pilzer's book "Wellness Revolution" is that he overestimates the wellness industry. He includes services like Lasik eye surgery, cosmetics, proactive MRI/CAT scanning salons, etc. in wellness. To me, these are ABSOLUTELY NOT WELLNESS. These services are not about "staying well." They are either fixes (eye surgery) or they are early detection of disease. Not wellness. For my definitions of wellness, as well as alternative medicine, etc. please see this earlier blog post.

Since releasing my book in 2004, which is now in its second edition, Pilzer has written another book which I also want to review here. It's called "The New Health Insurance Solution." Again, it is an excellent book, maybe even better than the Wellness Revolution. But, with this book, he leaves out the all-important piece of holistic healthcare, and just focused on how to construct your high deductible health plan and your HSA. Incredibly valuable information, to be sure, but I feel my book still provides the missing link between his two books.

I promise to review this other book on this blog very soon. I have lots to say about it too!

Paul Zane Pilzer, whatever you want to say about his network marketing side, has been an extremely influential writer for me. I hope you decide to read "Wellness Revolution" too.


jfordhill said...

In "Wellness Revolution", Pilzer seems to indicate that the cost of non-prescription vitamins/herbs can be reimbursed with pre-tax dollars using an HSA. I haven't found this to be true. Maybe so for treating a specific illness, but not for maintaining wellness.

Holistic Economy said...


Thanks for your comment.

I don't have the book in front of me, but I think what Pilzer was saying is that the current HSA does not allow us to buy vitamins/minerals/herbs/supplements, and he was proposing what he called a WSA - Wellness Savings Account.

He said that he is lobbying Congress to get these wellness-oriented supplements as something that we could use HSA money for.

So, you're right, IRS Publication 502 says that you cannot use any non-prescription supplements with your HSA money. Pub 502 is what we use to find out what medical and dental expenses are deductible, as well as what can be paid for using HSA money.

It also says, as you said, that if a doctor prescribes the supplements for a specific illness, you can use HSA money.

Actually, it says "medical practitioner," so there might be some wiggle room there, depending on your state laws. If chiropractors, naturopaths or acupuncturists are licensed in your state, you MIGHT be able to get a prescription from them (for a specific illness) and be okay using HSA money. I'm not totally sure about that, but it is worth a try.

What do you mean by "I haven't found this to be true?" Were you audited by the IRS, or how did you find this out? I'm curious to know.

Anyway, thanks for the comment.

Breezy said...

Hello Daryl,

I enjoyed Paul Zane Pilzer very much as well and also your blog. I hope you don't mind if I help spread the word and link you up with my blog that also deals with prevention and health.


Ken Breeze

Daryl Kulak said...


Link away!