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New Medicine for a New Century: Age Management / Restorative Medicine
by Yusuf M. Saleeby, MD
Medical Director of PHC
Be warned, this article is not for the squeamish. Within this editorial I express my world-view of the state of health care in America in the 21st century. There are some harsh realities that remain hidden to the masses of consumers by the status quo healthcare industry. These are dangerous times in which we live and quick action must be taken to fix a hemorrhaging system. First is the problem of our aging society. Baby Boomers now represent 28% of the US population. The fastest growing group of people in most countries of the world is the 80+-year-old bracket and by the year 2025 those over 80-years old will represent 30% of the world population. These statistics are frightening when one considers the cost of caring for older Americans by today’s standard of care.
With medical science advancements those born today will live on average 30-years longer than those born in the early 1900s. Longevity will continue to rise exponentially as the years go by. The economic burden to an aging society with disregard to preventive medicine is incredible. By 2025 we will spend 50% more than what was spent in 1998 in the healthcare arena. Will there be enough funds to take care of the sick and aging? Will we be able to afford good quality of care? Those who do not take care of themselves and ignore the “preventive medicine” physician will suffer from multiple chronic end-organ disease, this is a given. The result is that a growing number of these patients find themselves in total care facilities. These facilities are the decubitus ulcers of the healthcare industry; nobody really cherishes working them and certainly nobody wants to end up there. My years working the emergency departments in the Southeast have taught me a great lesson. I saw daily the ramifications of poor preventive medicine care, and cared daily for large numbers of people suffering from debilitating disease. Less than five percent of people today consume greater than ninety percent of the healthcare dollar. Will there be enough funds in the future if the sick population grows?
Effective January 1, 2014 Medicare will reduce reimbursements to physicians by as much as 50% is some states. As everyone knows the rest of the industry follows the example of government reimbursements. What does that mean? Less money to care for the sick will lead to lesser quality of care, that is a known fact. True there are many abuses in the system, but socialized medicine is certainly not the answer. Look a the United Kingdom, our lines for access to healthcare pale in comparison to the delays seen in those systems. It is without argument that it is less expensive and more efficient to spend time and money early on in life to avoid degenerative end stage diseases than to manage them later in life. Ignorance is by far the greatest common denominator for those who wind up in the Emergency Room or the nursing home with congestive heart failure, lung disease, heart attach, cancer or stroke. A lifetime of abusing the body or not realizing an underlying destructive process will cause the body to succumb to degenerative disease and organ failure.
Secondly, even before the tragedy of 9/11 and it’s effect on the economy there were problems brewing within the insurance industry. Take a close look at the insurance industry today; there are critical issues that will impact the solvency of that industry. ACA (Obama-care is having drastic negative effects already). There is a crisis among underwriters of medical malpractice and the several states have seen at least one major carrier pull out and end coverage for hundreds of physicians. It does not stop there. The cost of caring for the ill is very expensive and either one of two things must occur. Premiums will rise sharply and coverage may reach a point that may be prohibitive for individuals or employers to purchase, or the industry will demand health care professionals do “less” to save money. Neither scenario is appealing. Will I be able to purchase medical insurance in the future? What will the government offer and if it is not worth the money, will I be penalized? With rising cost of healthcare will I be able to afford it in the future? I don’t wish to be an alarmist, but time is of the essence for a proactive approach to staying well and free of disease.
By reducing cancer and heart disease by just 20%, a savings of $10-trillion annually in this country can be appreciated. The average 65 year old today takes nine different prescription drugs yearly with an average monthly cost of $38 each. Have you seen the recent rise in medication costs? This all adds up quickly. Add in the cost of doctor visits and hospitalizations which may quickly see a rise in out-of-pocket cost and it could spell disaster.
The only way to avoid this dilemma on a personal level is quite simple. You must rely on a different paradigm of healthcare. The emphasis is on early detection, education, preventive oriented evaluations and selected interventions that will assure better quality of life in the future. Even if this is totally an out-of-pocket, non-reimbursable expense the future payoff is tremendous for your overall well being.
Take our automobiles for example, Americans love their cars and will spend on average $24 a day on there cars, but we grumble about spending less on their health. Think for a moment here, our car is a replaceable, depreciating entity, our bodies are not. Most of us trade in our cars every four-years. Eating well and exercising correctly are two simple “no-brainers.” Participation in annual preventive medical examinations needs a bit more motivation and foresight. Frankly no one really wants to visit a doctor when they are “well”. This mindset must change. This new age of medicine demands a “new” doctor, one who is unhampered by the restrictions and decay of what the managed care system in America has made of today’s physician. Long lines to access care, long waits in the doctor’s office and short visits with physicians without attention to detail and the “whole patient” concept are unacceptable, but apparently tolerated by most Americans today. Fact: The average time spent by a doctor with his/her patient in America is only seven-minutes. The intentional destruction of the patient-physician relationship by the current health care system is chiefly to blame for the dissatisfaction in the care many receive today.
So what can I do?
Do not take this sitting down. There are alternatives to the status quo offered by today’s sick and dying health care industry. What is offered today is fast-food (to use as a metaphor) medicine, and it is not good for the body. Alternatively there are programs to delay or reverse the aging process preventing permanent damage to the body at a relatively young age. Just think about enjoying the latter years of you life traveling, remaining active and able to partake in leisure activities, versus spending the last 20 plus years of your life confined to a bed, swallowing a collection of pills to treat a myriad of diseases and spending your last dollar of savings on hospitals or nursing homes. Given the options, there is no hesitation in the path I would choose. Priority Health Carolinas offers a 21st Century Paradigm of medicine and an escape from the old-healthcare system.