Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa recently wrote an op-ed piece to explain how Congress is going to design a new and improved health-care system that will take care of everybody while focusing on preventing diseases.
I’ve copied some quotes from Harkin’s op-ed, which are in italics. My comments on the quotes aren’t.
With the Senate health committee convening daily to craft a comprehensive health reform bill, the basic outline of this landmark legislation is now clear. Yes, it will ensure access to affordable, quality care for every American. But, just as important, it will hold down health care costs by creating a sharp new emphasis on disease prevention and public health.
When politicians talk about holding down costs, it’s time to hold onto your wallet. When Medicare was enacted in 1965, it was projected to cost $12 billion in 1990. The actual cost in 1990 was $107 billion. The congressional budget-crunchers were only off by 792 percent.
We spend a staggering $2.3 trillion annually on health care – 16.5 percent of our GDP and far more than any other country spends on health care – yet the World Health Organization ranks U.S. health care only 37th among nations, on par with Serbia.
I’m not happy with our health-care system either, but the World Health Organization’s rankings are waaaaay skewed. (Honestly, would you rather be taken to an emergency room in the U.S. or Costa Rica?) I looked up how they calculate those rankings and will write about that – plus more about health-care costs, etc. – on the TomNaughton.com blog, probably next week.
How can this be so? The problem is that we have systematically neglected wellness and disease prevention. Currently in the United States, 95 percent of every health care dollar is spent on treating illnesses and conditions after they occur. But we spend peanuts on prevention.
I agree; we medicate symptoms instead of preventing diseases in the first place. Hey, maybe this Harkin fellow is onto something …
Consider this: Right now, some 75 percent of health care costs are accounted for by heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and obesity. What these five diseases and conditions have in common is that they are largely preventable and even reversible by changes in nutrition, physical activity, and lifestyle.
Yes! These are the “diseases of civilization” and they can certainly be prevented. Go, Harkin, go, Harkin, go, Harkin, go! Maybe I’ll move back to Iowa, where I spent much of my childhood, just so I can vote for Senator Prevention in the next election.
Listen to what Dr. Dean Ornish told our Senate health committee: “Studies have shown that changing lifestyle could prevent at least 90 percent of all heart disease. Thus, the disease that accounts for more premature deaths and costs Americans more than any other illness is almost completely preventable, and even reversible, simply by changing lifestyle.”
AAAAAAAAAARGGGGHH!!! Cancel that move back to Iowa. Senator Prevention is quoting Dean Ornish, one of the biggest promoters of grain-based, lowfat diets. This is the same diet recommendation that triggered the rise in obesity and the epidemic of diabetes we see today.
We also have to realize that wellness and prevention must be truly comprehensive. It is not only about what goes on in a doctor’s office. It encompasses workplace wellness programs, community-wide wellness programs, building bike paths and walking trails, getting junk food out of our schools, making school breakfasts and lunches more nutritious, increasing the amount of physical activity our children get, and so much more.
Ah, yes, that’s why our grandparents were lean and had a fraction of the Type II diabetes rates we see today: it was all those wellness programs, bike paths, walking trails, and federal school-lunch programs. Boy, if we just hadn’t gotten rid of those programs, we’d be in fine shape today.
Winston Churchill famously said that “Americans always do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” Well, we’ve tried everything else, and it has led us to bad health and the brink of bankruptcy.
Yes, we have tried everything else … like federal nutrition guidelines pushing a lowfat diet, a federally-designed Food Pyramid, a school-lunch program that’s required by law to follow that pyramid, and a federal committee that declared dietary fat and cholesterol to be the cause of heart disease.
Okay, enough of the Harkin quotes. You can read his full op-ed here. The point is, nothing’s going to change.
Preventing heart disease, obesity and diabetes is a great idea. But if you think solid advice on how to do it is going to come from the federal government, you must have been asleep for the past 30 years. It was yet another Senate committee, plus the USDA and FDA, who told us to avoid fat, eat lots of whole grains, and go on low-fat diets. The federal committee that was just assembled to re-write the federal nutrition guidelines is comprised of the usual suspects: so-called experts who think the key to health to simply eat less and cut back on fat.
And let’s think a bit about Senator Harkin himself. He’s a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. That means he’ll be deeply involved in any new health and nutrition guidelines that are woven into the new health-care bill. He’s also the senior senator from Iowa – you know, the state that grows all that corn we learned so much about in the documentary King Corn.
Mountains of federally-subsidized corn are the reason you find high-fructose corn syrup in pretty much everything these days. Cheap corn syrup is the reason 7-11 can sell you a 44-ounce Big Gulp that costs less than a bottle of carbonated water, and fast-food restaurants can hand you a cup the size of your head and let you have unlimited refills. Dirt-cheap corn is also the reason ranchers don’t raise their cattle on grass anymore.
So … what do you suppose the odds are that Senator Harkin’s committee will conduct an exhaustive study of what’s causing obesity, diabetes and heart disease, then announce an end to all federal corn subsidies?
What are the odds that the USDA – whose mission is to sell grains – will announce that putting breads and cereals at the base of the Food Pyramid was a dumb idea?
What are the odds that the hundreds of scientists who work for the National Institutes of Health but have lucrative contracts with pharmaceutical companies will stand up and declare that cholesterol doesn’t actually cause heart disease and the anti-fat campaigns where misguided?
Yes, our health is declining and our health-care system is an expensive mess. Kids are becoming insulin-resistant now, and nearly one-quarter of all senior citizens have Type II diabetes – and that figure doesn’t even count the millions of pre-diabetics who are nonetheless suffering the health consequences of producing too much insulin.
Thank God the federal government is going to do something about it. They did such a bang-up job last time around.