Sunday, April 13, 2008

Top 10 Trends in Healthcare

America is undergoing a dramatic shift in healthcare. Actually, ten distinctly different shifts.
Although the changes are unsettling, and will cause dislocations in our economy, the overall trends are positive and will help us all be healthier and wealthier when it all shakes out.

1. Western Medicine Costs Continue to Rise

It's hard to imagine, but the cost of going to a regular MD or hospital is going to get more and more expensive. This is not because doctors or hospitals are getting greedy, but instead because their own costs are rising every year. Malpractice insurance for risky surgical procedures, pharmaceutical drug reactions and deaths with accompanying lawsuits, complex medical equipment for diagnostic testing – everything is rising dramatically in cost. Pharmaceutical drug costs will continue to escalate also, leaving consumers holding the bag, because...

2. Health Insurance Opt-Outs Surge


For many years, corporations and small businesses have provided health insurance as an employee benefit. Often, employees would choose a job based on who offered the best health insurance. No longer. Small businesses have almost completely opted-out of the insurance game, and large corporations are not far behind. General Motors complains that health insurance costs them more per year than steel for their cars. In a few years, health insurance through your employer will be only a memory. Everyone will be buying health insurance the same way they buy home insurance or car insurance – independently.

Because of this shift, consumers will begin treating health insurance the same way they treat car and home insurance. Which is to say, they will treat it like INSURANCE.

Today, many Americans run to their doctors for even the smallest maladies, and they expect their health insurer should pay for everything. In fact, they're incensed when they don't. “What, you're not paying for this bottle of antibiotics for my kid's ear infection? How terrible!”

This is opposite of how we treat car insurance. Imagine expecting your insurer to pay for oil changes, car washes, pockmarks in the paint job, a broken cupholder. Can you picture it? Of course not. It would be ridiculous.

Yet, with health insurance, it's been okay. Why? Because the employer is picking up the tab. Not anymore, they're not.

As a result, Americans will pay more attention to preventive healthcare, like regular exercise, good diet and meditation, etc. They will also do more cost comparisons between all their healthcare options, including a trip to the doctor, or...

3. Alternative Medicine Becomes the Dominant Healthcare System in America

I feel bad calling this a future trend, since this has almost already occurred. Alternative medicine, including naturopathy, hypnotherapy, Chinese medicine, chiropractic, yoga, etc. is fast overtaking Western medicine (drugs and surgery) as the dominant healthcare system of America.

Several studies have shown that Americans spend more out-of-pocket on alternative medicine than on Western medicine. They've also shown that people are making more trips to these alternative practitioners than they are to regular MDs. These are positive developments. The downside is that people are reticent to mention their alternative therapies to their doctors, because they're afraid of disapproval by their doctor.

But the trend is clear. Alternative medicine is often less expensive (especially outside of insurance), equally effective and produces less harmful side effects, as was evidenced by the flurry of pharmaceutical drugs this past year that were removed after being prescribed to hundreds of thousands of patients.

People's trust in Western medicine is diminishing, and their relief in finding alternatives is rising.

Major institutions are now doing large numbers of studies on alternative medicines, including herbal remedies, bodywork, meditation, dietary changes and many others. Randomized, controlled studies are available on almost every type of alternative healing practice, and they typically show good results.

The rise of alternative medicine and the opting-out of employer-funded health insurance has led us inevitably to an era of...

4. Consumer-Driven Healthcare

People are making their own choices in healthcare and health insurance. They want to make their own decisions.

This is extremely positive. One study after another shows that hospital patients who are disruptive, picky, nosy and non-compliant are the ones who fare best with any surgery or recovery from illness. The patients who are compliant and put their fates in the hands of their doctors are the ones who fare most poorly. Taking charge of one's health is part of consumer-driven healthcare.

This term also refers to how people are deciding to use whatever treatments they think will work best, based on their own research. Fewer people simply accept their “doctor's orders” and instead they find out for themselves what is available and make informed choices. This also means they are deciding to use a different kind of health insurance, which is more compatible with their free-will healthcare style...

5. High-Deductible Health Insurance and Health Savings Accounts (HSA)

As corporations drop their employees' health plans, the employees are choosing to buy high-deductible health insurance policies, which are much cheaper.

In fact, a high-deductible policy ($2,500 deductible or higher) is almost always so much cheaper, that even if you had to pay the entire deductible yourself every year, you'd still save thousands of dollars. The monthly premiums are reduced MORE than the amount of the deductible.

Along with high-deductible policies, people are choosing to use the Health Savings Account (HSA), introduced in 2003. This is a tax-deductible savings account that can be used for any medical treatment (Western medicine, actually), which is basically a tax savings for everyone who buys their insurance independently.

High-deductible policies and HSAs allow people to have Western medicine waiting in the wings when they have serious health problems that require expensive drugs, tests and surgery. But until then, they are able to use alternative medicine as the best service for prevention and small day-to-day health problems.

Alternative medicine provides a “first line of defense” while Western medicine provides the expensive, dangerous, but necessary backup.

Since alternative medicine has taken such a major role in healthcare, the state and federal laws have had to adjust, which has meant...

6. The Rise of Health Freedom Laws

Health freedom is a term applied to a particular kind of legislative bill. It is a bill that allows alternative medical practitioners to practice their healing arts, as long as they stay out of the areas where extensive Western medical training is required:

  • performing surgery
  • prescribing pharmaceutical drugs
  • administering injections (like vaccinations)
  • knowingly contradicting an MD's orders

If alternative medical practitioners are caught doing any of these, they can be arrested for practicing medicine without a license. But otherwise, they can use any other type of healing art, including bodywork, dietary changes, movement therapies, hypnosis, etc. to help their clients.

This bill is needed in many states, because current laws state that no one can practice medicine except medical doctors, and the definition of practicing medicine is anything that helps people with their health! This means that if someone has a cold, and they go to a massage therapists who recommends echinacea, that massage therapist is breaking the law! Ridiculous? Practitioners have been shut down in many states for doing less.

Health Freedom laws are common sense. They've been passed in four states already – Minnesota, Rhode Island, California and Idaho. These states have had excellent results from these bills, including patients from neighboring states making trips to their states to seek relief from health problems. Can you say “boost to the economy?”

For more information about Health Freedom initiatives, visit the National Health Freedom Website.

With Health Freedom information, and alternative medical options available, it is only natural that people turn to...

7. The Internet As a Healthcare Information Resource


The Internet has become the first stop for someone who has a health concern. Feeling low? Do a search on depression remedies on the Internet. Just been diagnosed with cancer, and the doctor says it's chemotherapy or die? Jump on the Internet and see what your other options are.

Of course, the Internet has its benefits and its problems. There is a tremendous amount of misinformation about healthcare on the Internet. Much of it comes from well-meaning entrepreneurs who have been sucked into a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme and are trying to pitch some health elixir or other. A second source of health misinformation comes from the Western medical establishment, who seek to discredit alternative medical therapies that could take significant revenues away from their invested therapies. A third source of misinformation comes from the anecdotes of individuals who experienced relief from one therapy or another, but who do not (and cannot) actually represent a proven cure to a particular health problem.

Even with all these caveats, the Internet's influence in healthcare decisions will gain momentum. People will understand the “good sources” and “bad sources” of information and new portals will crop up that separate the wheat from the chaff.

The reason people are turning to the Internet in such numbers is due to a lack of trust...

8. Distrust in Existing Medical Institutions

At one time, you could hold no position of higher trust than to be a doctor. My wife's father was a doctor in a small town in Ohio. When he died, the funeral was packed with his patients over the years. People appreciated his caring and his dedication to keeping them healthy.

Now, doctors are viewed with suspicion. Will my doctor let me die by not revealing an alternative therapy that could help me? Is my doctor getting kickbacks from the cute, young, female pharmaceutical rep who visits him twice a month?

The system has gained the pallor of corruption, even when it's not really true. Big medicine has become big business, and the number one concern is no longer the patient, it's dollars and cents.

But hospitals and doctors are not the only things that Americans distrust...

9. Distrust of Socialized Medicine


People in government and in society seem to feel that some brand of socialized medicine will be the magic solution for America's healthcare problems. The “single payer system” of healthcare, successful in other countries, must be implemented here, they say.

But America is a different kind of country, from its very beginnings. Americans praise the independent spirit, the entrepreneur, the underdog.

Socialized medicine will not work in America. And Americans know it. They do not want a government-run system. What is the least efficient organization you can imagine? It's the government. Do you really want a government worker making decisions for you about healthcare?

Yes, America needs to find a way to insure every single person in this country. But socialized medicine is not the cure for this illness. Having been born in Canada and living there for the first twenty-eight years of my life, I can say that Canada's socialized medicine program leaves much to be desired. It does cover every person, but in a way that benefits no one.

I understand that the person in the middle of this entire crisis, the professional who has the most to gain or lose, is the doctor, the general practitioner. They will be devastated by a socialized medicine system, and they will also be affected greatly by the other trends in this article.

Because of this, I see the emergence of a final trend...

10. Doctors Incorporate Alternative Medicine Into Their Practices


Doctors will have no choice but to use pieces and parts of alternative medicine in what they do day-to-day with patients. “The customer is always right,” as they say, and the customer definitely wants a choice.

Although doctors are increasingly using alternative medicine in their own practice, and hiring alternative practitioners to work in their offices, the independent alternative practitioner will still be the rule, not the exception. There are just too many alternative practitioners (massage therapists, chiropractors, yoga instructors, etc.) for doctors to absorb everyone. And people will want a choice. A Western medical experience, or perhaps an alternative medicine experience.

And a choice they will receive.

The Western medical practitioners who are clearly leading the way are nurses. Nurses are much more open to alternatives than doctors, and they are increasingly opening their own offices, as nurse-practitioners sometimes, and treating patients with a wide variety of healing methods. Patients appreciate the nurses Western medical knowledge, and also their openness to a new set of options.

Overall, the outlook for healthcare is extremely positive for everyone involved. Tremendous change, yes. But upheaval can create some wonderful new circumstances.



Daryl Kulak is the author of Health Insurance Off the Grid, a book that provides a simple, effective plan to reduce insurance costs for the self-employed and underinsured. The book puts the new Health Savings Account (HSA) together with alternative medicine to create a workable, cost-effective plan for many Americans. The book is available at this Website.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

7 comments:

AZReam said...

there is actually no need for the cost of medical equipment and supplies to be so high - unless of course a contract exists between vendor and user which dictates that it must be.

www.azream.us

AIV said...

I have to admit that I found the ten points you provided in this post to be pretty accurate. In particular, I was intrigued by your comments on American's distrust of socialized medicine. Although you do admit that our healthcare system is in need of reform, you failed to mention a different alternative to national health care. I would have liked to see you go more in depth with this trend because it is an extremely important topic right now. I feel that if America thought that the answer to our healthcare crisis was in a socialized healthcare system, our fear of losing our independence would not overcome our desire to better this country. I am not implying that America should shift towards a national health insurance, but you seem to completely dismiss it as an alternative. While your experiences might have not been excellent with the socialized Canadian healthcare system, I am sure that you acknowledge that both the Canadian systems as well as the United Kingdom's system have some parts to it that work well and from which we could learn. It might not require a single payer system to repair our healthcare problem, but we must do something in order to help all those millions of people in our country who find themselves without insurance. While alternative medicine can help these people in the short run, there is going to come a point in time when they are going to need specialized care, and then it will be more costly on the country then if we are proactive now in changing our healthcare system into one that will be sustainable for a long time.

Daryl Kulak said...

AIV,

Thanks for your comment. I can see you've thought about this a lot!

My thinking on this issue is as follows:

- I don't think a single-payer system can help the U.S. with our insurance issues.

- We have a system to help people who can't afford health insurance. It's called Medicaid. However, there are a lot (44 million) of people who are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but do not purchase insurance for themselves. I've met a number of these people. The ones I've met are young people who actually could afford health insurance but have decided not to. That is their choice. Frankly, they think they are indestructible and have no fear of disease or injury. I'm not sure this is a situation in dire need of a solution.

- Yes, I'm sure there are many people who are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford health insurance, or those who have pre-existing conditions. The answer there seems to be fairly close to what Barack Obama is proposing, which is to force insurance companies to accept people with pre-existing conditions and to punish insurers for bad behavior (like dropping people once they are ill or refusing legitimate claims). In other words, I'm proposing tweaks to the current private insurance system, rather than an overhaul like single-payer would be.

- Alternative medicine is rising in popularity, and as it does, the need for catastrophic insurance claims goes down. If I am focusing on staying healthy, I will have fewer chronic illnesses and fewer health scares. Plus, when I do have a health problem, the holistic solutions are much more affordable than things like chemotherapy, radiation, MRIs, CAT scans, etc.

I hope that is a reasonable explanation. I was trying to keep my article below 2,500 words (unsuccessfully, I think) which is why I didn't include a lot of elaboration on what my own solutions to these problems are.

Thanks again for commenting.

AZReam said...

It all comes down to funding - the French system, where health insurance is mandatory but can be either privately or pubicly funded, works well.

In the UK, those subscribing to private treatment actually end up paying twice, since it is not possible to opt out of the National Health Service contributions. That's too be avoided, but a system similar to that in France could work well in the US, without the apparent stigma of it being branded as "socialized medecine". Those who are critical of such a scheme, need to remember that some 40 million Americans need it!

And again, costs could be lowered, if only those responsible for procuring supplies were prepared to change.

Black Sheep said...

It's unfortunate that "socialized medicine" has become a dirty word and is often misused. People immediately equate the term to Canadian, British and other European systems and pass inappropriate judgements of total government control. These systems that are all linked to the one term are very different from one another.

From my point of view the issue is about what we believe is right. Do we believe that people deserve healthcare? Are we entitled to this as a people of this country? Just as we are entitled to public safety and education? If so, then we need to make a change and this should not be on the backs of employers and it should not be only partly funded by the government.

You state that 44 million people are without health insurance, yes that's true. Some of these people are young and choose not to have health insurance - that is also true. What's missing is the HUGE segment of that number that make up the working poor. This includes families that are unable to afford insurance and on a daily basis must make horrendous choices between food, rent, child care, and the health and well-being of their loved ones. This is unacceptable.

As for HSAs. I know quite a bit about them. My concern is that choices will be made that are driven by cost and not by what's in the best interest of your health. For example, "I know that this Chiropractor visit is probably going to help me.... but I'd rather not spend that out-of-pocket right now." HSAs really only work for young and healthy.

Anna said...

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Health Insurance said...

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