Will Medicare be there when you need it? If it is, will it provide the care you need to live life to the fullest? It is important to understand that Medicare is funded through the same financial system as Social Security. That is, workers’ payroll tax deductions, matched by employers, provide medical care for the current elderly population. As baby-boomers reach the age when insurance providers dump us into the Medicare system, we will not have our own life long deposits to pay for medical care. Instead, the system will be taxing the then current workers’ salaries to provide for us. And, as with Social Security, there will be a significantly lower percentage of workers compared with beneficiaries to fund our elderly population’s needs. Though I personally expect that Medicare, like social security, will still be there, rather than being entirely bankrupt; I suspect it will be under funded to cover the full medical needs of the bulging baby boom population. We are already hearing from congress that there is a significant financial need to revamp “entitlement” benefits in order to stay solvent.
As is already being discussed in our nation’s capital, this will likely lead to significantly higher Medicare taxes on workers and their resulting outrage, and at the same time a delay in services, or even more concerning, rationing of services and procedures for the elderly and their resulting outrage, or both. Actually, this is already evident as the government tries to implement the Affordable Care Act–Obama Care. A nice set up for generational resentment.
Since these band-aid solutions are unattractive, I’d like to offer an alternative solution—optional wellness.
Then fewer of us would be chronically ill with preventable diseases, and there would be money in the Medicare system to take care of those who need it. Most risk factors for chronic illnesses, as well as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes can be significantly reduced when individuals reduce stress and exercise excellent health and lifestyle habits. We all know a little about this. Yet just how many of us exercise enough, or at all? How many eat healthy, non-GMO organic foods? How many work in jobs they love, balance their home and work lives, or handle stress effectively? How many are seeking personal and spiritual fulfillment, fulfilling their purpose? How many are working with thought mastery or belief structures to help them move into healthier lifestyle habits and behaviors? And, if we are not doing these things, how many of us already feel age advancing in discomforting ways? How many of us actually realize the devastating effects of preventable lifestyle induced diseases?
Our nation currently faces an epidemic of overweight. Fully 60 plus % of Americans are currently overweight. A good half of those people are obese. That is, almost one third of our population is obese! These percentages are increasing at an alarming rate. Obesity and overweight contribute significantly to the risk factors for cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Further, diabetes is the number one risk factor for chronic renal (kidney) failure. The elderly often have several of these diseases at once. If you visit your nearby skilled nursing facility, you can see that they are already filled to capacity with people who have had strokes, can no longer move their own bodies about, while often also receiving dialysis three times a week, just to stay alive. Believe me it is heart wrenching to watch a beloved family member endure such conditions. At the rate our nation is gaining weight, there won’t be enough skilled nursing homes nor skilled nurses and aides available to manage all of those in such dire medical need, as the boomers flood retirement age.
Outside of better health and functioning and happiness personally, why go for optimal wellness? I believe there is a really high price to pay, when we don’t. Personally, in addition to ill health, we lose time we could be spending in more fun and interesting ways than in treatment and recovery. We lose money for all those co pays, or to pay for those natural and other services that insurances are underfunded for or behind in covering. We lose energy, as we spend our days tired, in pain, or napping. We lose our physical abilities and curtail our activities. And, quite likely, we lose days, months or even years, as we become significantly less active or die prematurely. Our employers, community, and country lose productive workers , volunteers, and community members participation. We all lose the money spent on higher medical costs and insurance premiums. We actually lose GNP. We lose the viability of an effective Medicare and medical system as our society focuses on “disease” care while individuals get sicker. The only gold in the golden years will be flowing out of our pockets, as we desperately try to fund our own survival.
On a positive note, a while back, I saw a lovely TV show on the WISDOM channel hosted by Jane Seymour about Alternative Medicine that gave heart warming statistics about how many people are seeking at least some natural and alternative therapies—59% (at that time). It further stated that there are many insurance companies that intend to begin adding coverage for more of these therapies—or at least offer them as options to employers. Though the wheels turn slowly and definitely behind the natural and alternative services available, it is a hopeful start. I know even more people would take advantage of those services if they were covered by insurance carriers. And, taking advantage of natural and alternative services is one good step toward a healthier lifestyle and optimal wellness. The fact that the Affordable Care Act is still behind the times NOT offering more natural alternative therapy coverages is both a serious concern and a marker of how allopathic medicine is still just focused on “disease care” not health care!
I see our personal health status as a continuum.
Optimal wellness—–good health—-preventive medicine—-what we call “normal”—-early diagnosis—-symptoms—disease—-critical disease—-death.
Our “health care” system generally kicks in at the symptomatic phase. What is generally touted to be preventive medicine is, for the most part, only early diagnosis. Though useful, early diagnosis is not really “preventative.” As example, consider mammogram X-rays, while they can be useful to catch cancer diagnosis early, to think that they “prevent” cancer is more than counter-intuitive. Until we are ready to focus on and support both financially through third-party payer coverage and through education in our schools, media, government, and advertising, real preventive medicine and optimal wellness will not be something that is generally thought about, considered, or actually worked upon in our general populace. And the giant baby boomer wave of the “ill” will have devastating tsunami effects.
Please consider writing your congress representatives, and communicate with your employers and insurance companies, if you want to help hurry along the process of including natural and alternative services in insurance and Medicare coverage. My hope is that may be helpful, though the climate I currently see surrounding natural and alternative services and remedies is unfortunately quite hostile. You have only to look at the FDA and FTC websites to see the witch hunts currently underway under the guise of “protecting” the population, which, when analyzed carefully, seem to be more about who gets our money than increasing the health of our nation.
In the meantime, whether or not a significant percentage of the population begins lifestyle changes and health programs with the intention of achieving optimal wellness, each one of us can still choose it for ourselves. Then, whether or not the Medicare system is viable and there for us will not be as critical personally; as, hopefully, we will be healthier and have less need of it. In my opinion, this is the only solution that will allow us to fully fund health care services in the future. If we do not work on moving more of our population towards optimal wellness, many of the great minds we will need to move civilization forward in our future will be lost to pain, suffering, fatigue, distracted focus, and premature deaths from very preventable diseases.
We each have options here. What is your choice?
by Alice Buehring, Integrative Therapist
To work on improving your own optimal wellness call Alice at 360 793 4930 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for an in person or telephone appointment.