Tuesday, March 31, 2009

“Fat, Drunk and Stupid Is No Way to Go Through Life, America!”

Between 30-65% of the cost of health care in America would disappear today if we had all heeded the admonitions of the esteemed and venerated Vernon Wormer, Dean of Faber College in 1978.

Not that any of us actually graduated from Faber College…we have just seen “Animal House” so many times that we think we did.

Two of the leading authorities in health care confirmed to me during my days in Washington that anywhere between 30% and 65% of all health care expenses in America today can be attributed to 4 things we Americans are doing to kill ourselves:

1. Over-eating
2. Smoking
3. Drinking too much
4. Not getting enough exercise

Let’s see…just 50% would be approximately $1 Trillion of annual savings in the national health care economy. 50% savings from the costs of Medicare and Medicaid would be approximately $300 billion saved in the federal budget this year alone.

Deficit? What deficit? In a ‘normal’ year, $300 Billion in budget savings would be enough to throw us into a budget surplus.

Dean Wormer had it right on target. 66% of us are now considered overweight, obese or “morbidly obese”, the highest in recorded history. We all know smoking is not a ‘health food’. Drinking too many alcoholic drinks every day can pickle your liver like a…well, like a pickle, come to think of it. And, if we did not have a remote control for our 72” plasma HDTV, we would at least get some exercise getting off the couch to change the channel every now and then and leave the Cheetos and Krispy Kremes behind.

Here is what the doctors tell us all of these bad habits cause: 1) high-blood pressure; 2) diabetes; 3) heart attack; 4) stroke; and 5) cancer. That is a ‘Murderer’s Row’, if ever there was one.

What does this mean to you as an American taxpayer? It means that you are subsidizing the poor eating, drinking, smoking and living habits of the entire nation, including yourself, unless you are in perfect health and don’t have any vices.

Although remember what Mark Twain once said: “I have not a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming vices.”

What we have done with our health care system in America today is no different than what Wall Street has done to us lately. We have ‘privatized’ the upside fun of eating, drinking and smoking too much (“It is my individual right to do so!”) but we have ‘socialized” the cost of paying for all of the expensive, mind-boggling modern science procedures to “the rest of us”.

To use a NASCAR analogy, it is sort of like driving your car around the track in a reckless fashion only because you know someone else in the stands will pay for the repair job, not you or your crew team.

Whether it is through federal programs such as Medicare or Medicaid or through the private health insurance system, we are all paying for the poor eating and living habits of way too many Americans nowadays.

Would it be so hard and too difficult of a sacrifice that we could return to the days where we were all conscientious and responsible about taking care of our own health first and then use the hospital system only when absolutely necessary?

If we don’t, then we are heading towards a time when geometrical growth in the cost of health care in general, and in Medicare and Medicaid in particular, are going to bankrupt us as a nation. This eventuality will put the current financial bankruptcy on Wall Street to shame.

And then Dean Wormer’s final admonition to Flounder that “being stupid is no way to go through life, son!” will have been proven by America on the international stage for all to see and for history to read about. (see 'Animal House')

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