I have attended several local citizen groups that provided recommendations on health-care reform to the Obama Transition Team. Before we knew what reforms to recommend, we addressed a key question: Is access to affordable health care a human right for everyone, or is it a privilege available only to those who can afford it?
If you believe it is a human right, then the best option is a single-payer national health-insurance program that everyone can afford. Then health-care reform would focus on making it affordable. If you believe it is a privilege, then up to 45 million Americans will remain without affordable health insurance and reform would focus on how to contain costs.
If you believe—like I do—that affordable health care is a right, then we must shift our focus from a disease-oriented model to a prevention-oriented model that emphasizes wellness and public-health education. Prevention is the best way to make health care affordable. Two examples are heart disease and cancer.
The annual cost of over 1.5 million coronary-bypass-graft or angioplasty surgeries is $60 billion. Three percent of these surgeries prevent future heart attacks. Each cancer patient pays out more than $500,000 for treatment before dying. The annual cost of treating the 556,650 cancer patients who die is over $278 billion.
There is a wealth of credible research evidence showing how to prevent most heart disease and cancers through proper diet, nutrition, exercise and stress reduction—thus saving billions of dollars in health-care costs. These preventative measures help make health care affordable, build healthy bodies and strengthen our immune systems. This country desperately needs an affordable, single-payer national health-insurance program that starts with good public-health education about how to prevent diseases and promote wellness.
— Barry Weinhold