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5 American Behaviors That Define Our Healthcare Costs and Solutions

By Bill Roth

Editor's Note: This is the third post in a three-part article series. In case you missed it, you can read the first post here and the second post here

America is desperate for affordable health care. We spend more on health care than any other developed country. But we are not seeing the results. Our health ranks last among industrial nations.

The first of this three-part article series focused on the two reasons why we are spending so much more with so little results. The second article outlined three steps for changing the drug and insurance industry business model to achieve lower prices.

Now, we'll take a look at five American behaviors that must be changed if we are to realize lower healthcare costs.

Five American behaviors making health care unaffordable

Our healthcare costs are soaring because:

  1. Our weight is killing us. Half of Americans are overweight or obese. Our weight is the driving force behind our national diabetes and heart disease epidemic.

  2. Drug abuse. Opioid abuse is now a leading cause of death.

  3. Vehicle accidents. They are rising again, killing and injuring millions annually.

  4. Gun violence. It now compares to vehicle accidents as a leading cause of death and injury.

  5. Infant mortality and children health. America’s infant mortality is comparable to Serbia’s and three times higher than Japan’s

Healthcare costs will not decline until America, and Americans, address these behaviors.

1. Our national weight crisis

Americans cannot afford our weight. The cost to medicate our weight is bankrupting our country. The baby boomer generation is accelerating us over this cliff. Seventy-five percent of boomer women and 80 percent of boomer men are overweight or obese. Their weight-related illness threatens to bankrupt Medicare.

It is past time for Americans to recognize that our consumption of sugar, fats, salt and food additives is as dangerous to our health as using tobacco. The solution is to adopt public policy that treats unhealthy foods and beverages just like we treat tobacco products. We really won’t like doing this. But we also can’t afford to pay the healthcare costs of being overweight and obese.

2. Drug abuse epidemic

The war on drugs has failed. Two radical steps are required to curtail our drug epidemic.

First, we must recognize individual drug abuse as a disease, not a criminal act. Such a system would stop throwing drug abusers in jail and making them criminals. It would instead treat their addiction.

Secondly, we must hold drug companies and doctors accountable for medicating pain in a manner that promotes addiction.

Implementing these two solutions will curtail the drug epidemic, reduce law enforcement and incarceration costs, and grow our economy by enabling employment of individuals with a drug addiction disease.

3. Vehicle accidents

America is again facing a vehicle accident crisis. This comes after years of success in reducing death and injury through government mandates of increased vehicle safety features. Human distraction from using digital devices is one of the root causes for rising vehicle accident rates. The other is impairment from drug/alcohol use.

Technology is on the cusp of coming to our rescue. Mass adoption of autonomous vehicles will not only lower driving costs, but its will also reduce vehicle accidents.

4. Gun violence

Is there a more contentious issue than guns? It is a Second Amendment right to own a gun. And Americans own more guns than any other country.

The byproduct of gun ownership is gun violence. The two leading causes of gun deaths are suicide and murder. Half of all suicides are executed with guns. America must invest in mental health care to reduce gun violence, drug abuse and homelessness.

Another telling data point is that African American males are the largest demographic group murdered by guns. Linked to this trend is the fact that African American males in Midwest and Mid-Atlantic cities confront 45 percent unemployment rates.

Gun violence can be reduced. But doing so requires public consensus, and policy, to reduce the underlying causes of gun violence.

5. America’s shame of high infant and children mortality

How America cares for its newborns and kids is a major reason why health insurance costs are higher. Unhealthy kids end up becoming unhealthy adults. Both drive up healthcare costs.

Poverty is a key reason why we have a high infant mortality rate and unhealthy kids. Over 20 percent of our children live in poverty.

Today, Medicaid provides 16 million children with health care. Another 7 million children are uninsured. Public policy that cuts Medicaid will only generate millions of future unhealthy adults with diminished potential. The solution is to provide expecting mothers and children with health care that will improve their health, diminish their need for health care and enable their fullest potential.

America’s healthcare crossroad

We are at a crossroad on health care. Spending one out of every five dollars on health care is limiting our economic growth. Plus, for all the money we are spending, we are not getting healthier.

The ultimate solution is for Americans to behave in a healthier manner. Specifically, we must:

  1. Strive to lose weight and live healthier lives

  2. Reduce our gun violence by investing in mental health and creating job opportunities for African American men, most especially in Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic cities

  3. Adopt autonomous vehicles to slash vehicle deaths/injuries

  4. Treat drug addiction as a disease focused on restoring individual health and productivity

  5. Provide universal prenatal treatment and children healthcare.

America's healthcare bottom-line question is: Do we invest in solutions, or cut benefits in the belief it will also cut costs?

Where we go next will determine the future of our health and healthcare costs.

Bill Roth headshot

Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!

Read more stories by Bill Roth