Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eating a Hot Dog Can Send You to the Hospital

How can the nation get people to take care of their own health? How do you keep a heart patient from eating a hot dog on the 4th of July? The Wall Street Journal ran an article on "Cutting Repeat Hospital Trips" which included the story of a woman who didn't care if eating a hot dog would put her back into the hospital. She ate the dog and baked beans -- both loaded with blood-pressure-raising sodium. The next day she was hospitalized.

The taxpayers and anyone with health insurance are paying for this sort of behavior over and over. But how do we as a nation avoid acting like Big Brother while holding the line on the costs incurred by people who won't take responsibility for their own health? We fine people who don't wear seat belts. Can we fine people for eating hot dogs?

The article (well worth reading) has excellent examples from the Berkshire Medical Center in Massachusetts of how return hospital visits can be minimized. It doesn't have any suggestions on the hot dog problem, however. If you want to read the article, here is the link:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124873545269485081.html#mod=rss_whats_news_us

I believe that all of our proposed plans in Congress are just too cumbersome. I fear that public health control will be like dealing with the IRS. My idea is to cover everyone with a $5,000 annual deductible disaster plan. You pay premiums via a low income tax. If you want more coverage, you buy it on the open market through private insurance companies. If you don't have an income, and if you are on some sort of government aid, then the coverage comes for free.

This would make people care more about the first $5,000 they pay for health care. People might ask more questions or take better care of themselves because they'd have a financial incentive. But if they have a catastrophic illness or accident, then they won't be bankrupted.

At the same time, we need to be looking for cost-cutting best practices nationwide and providing incentives to hospitals and doctors to copy them.

If you like my ideas, talk them up.

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