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The REAL Problems with Healthcare in America

Political Mayhem

The attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare (ACA) failed. I don’t think there is one person that can confidently say they even know what was in the last revision of the proposed American Health Care Act. Politicians were so desperate to pass the bill, changes were being made faster than it could be revised on paper. What was certain was that the bill did not meet all the Trump administration mandates: that it provided “Affordable coverage for everyone; lower deductibles and healthcare costs; better care; and zero cuts to Medicaid.” Even though the various revisions of the bill failed to meet any of these mandates, the administration supported it.

This was purely political. It failed because it was wrong. It failed because after seven years of complaining about Obamacare, the Republican congressmen STILL had no plan to replace it and threw something together last minute. It failed because enough Republican congressmen refused to be bullied (to vote for it) and pledged to vote their conscious, in favor of what was best for their constituents.

Nothing about this congressional effort focused on the good of the American people. It was never about quality healthcare. It was ALL about repealing Obamacare- destroying Barrack Obama’s legacy. That was the single goal.

Bad, Better, Worse?

In order to discuss the cost and accessibility of healthcare, here are some thing you might want to consider:

  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the failed bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) are/were both flawed. The combination of coverage, cost control and availability do not work in favor of the American people under either plan. Still, had the ACA been replaced with the AHCA, 24 million Americans would have lost coverage. A big problem with the ACA is that the model (ratio of insured) hasn’t been reached, driving premium costs up.
  • Without regulation, healthcare providers are at liberty to charge uninsured patients whatever they want. Insurance companies have a stringent table of fees it will pay for services, yet it can vary from provider to provider, affecting individual premium costs.
  • Healthcare insurance policies vary so greatly that it’s nearly impossible for the average American to decipher. This leads to confusion, inadequate coverage and unnecessary higher out-of-pocket costs.
  • Healthcare coverage is more a subsidy than it is an insurance policy. Most Americans would not be able to afford quality care, especially in the situation of an emergency or long-term illness without some sort of assistance. Paying out-of-pocket is simply not an option.
  • Half (or more) of individual American bankruptcies are attributed to debt from medical expenses.
  • Public and private hospitals alike are prohibited by law from denying a patient care in an emergency. The Emergency Medical and Treatment Labor Act (EMTLA) passed by Congress in 1986 explicitly forbids the denial of care to indigent or uninsured patients based on a lack of ability to pay. (from Google)

Taking the above issues into consideration, if we are guaranteed treatment, with or without coverage– who pays? We all do. Whether through higher taxes, bankruptcies, rising premiums or out-of-pocket. We will all pay for healthcare for everyone.

As long as healthcare is for-profit in America, any efforts to make it affordable are likely to fail.

Here’s one example of a for-profit problem: Mark Bertolini, Chairman and CEO of AETNA received  $27.9 million in compensation in 2015, up from 15 million in 2014. The combined compensation of four other top AETNA executives was $18.7 million, not including $17.4 million in restricted stock and stock options. In spite of a huge profit margin and exorbitant compensations for top level executives, AETNA withdrew from the ACA marketplace in eleven states this past year, to assure their financial gains. From 2015 to 2016 their net profits rose 8% to $603.9 million dollars.

We are told they can’t sustain services because Obamacare doesn’t work. In reality, it’s about greed.

Life, Death… Corporate Greed?

When the actual healthcare professionals that you and I are likely to come in contact with– such as EMTs, nurses, doctors and medical office staff– have problems affording adequate health coverage– there is a serious problem with the system.

Solution?

There are really only three possible options, I can think of, to bring costs under control and make healthcare in America affordable:

  1. Heavy government regulation of all healthcare in America.
  2. Make all healthcare nonprofit.
  3. Establish a single payer national healthcare system.

None of these are easily fixes. What other solutions can you think of?

Washington may be willing to push this issue to the side (for now) but the problem isn’t going to go away.

So Is It Organic Or Not? And Does It Really Matter?

Is it really organic?

How can you tell if it’s organic?

What is organic, anyway?usda-guts-organic-standards

The word organic doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it did back in the 1970’s when my aunt started organic gardening in her backyard. She had a small garden, so using manure and compost to fertilize, constantly aerating the soil and hand-picking insects from the plants instead of using pesticides, was time consuming but manageable.

Imagine trying to do that on a large scale farm.

Organic refers, not to the quality of food produced, it refers to how it is produced. Organic fruits and vegetables are supposed to be grown in clean, uncontaminated soil using only clean, organic fertilizers (non-chemical) and without the use of any pesticides. They also cannot be treated with preservatives. Organic animal products can’t be raised using medications, antibiotics or growth hormones. Also, organic foods cannot be genetically modified (GM or GMO). Producing foods organically is also considered much better for the environment.

Sounds pretty healthy, doesn’t it?

The way the use of the word organic is used and regulated, leaves most of us confused and often misled.

The USDA uses four different categories in organic food labeling: 100% Organic; 95% Organic- labeled Certified Organic; 70-95% Organic– labeled, Made With Organic Ingredients; and 70% Organic– labeled, Contains Organic Ingredients. You should be suspicious of any products labeled or displayed in stores with any form of the word organic, that is not accompanied by the USDA seal.

We have to ask ourselves, if it’s not 100% organic, is it still worth the increased cost?

Common sense tells us that foods without pesticides; and animal products that were produced without antibiotics and hormones should be healthier for us, right?

Unfortunately, studies show that pesticide residue, though lower in organic products, still exist in them, To date, there is no proof that any of the pesticide residue found in organic or conventionally farmed foods affect our health. There is also no proof that antibiotics used on animal products interfere with the affects of human antibiotic effectiveness.

It is important to know that there are no claims by the USDA, or any evidence that supports the existence of any increased nutritional value or quality in organic foods. All studies indicate that they are comparatively the same.

I’m frustrated to know that there have been very few attempts to even study and compare the health of people eating only organic foods versus conventionally grown foods. The data just doesn’t exist.

It’s also important to note that people frequently become confused by the terms: organic, fresh, natural, sustainable and locally grown. Each word or phrase can mean a totally differently thing. Though the use of any of these descriptions are intended to suggest a healthier and more nutritious  product– that proof doesn’t exist.

So is it worth it?

All currently available research shows no measurable health benefits to consuming organic foods over conventionally grown foods. So is it really worth paying the average additional 40% to 120% increase in cost?

Without clear data supporting it, it really just becomes a personal preference. Many people can’t afford to spend the extra money on a chance that organic is better for you.

Some people claim that organic foods taste better than conventionally grown foods. Yet in my own personal research, I have not found any noticeable differences.

Organic produce isn’t always ‘as pretty‘ as conventionally grown produce and may contain natural imperfections that end up equaling waste. This might also be a deciding factor in the value, particularly when purchasing produce by the pound as opposed to individual item-pricing.

One last thing to consider is that organic foods are not supposed to be treated with any preservatives, leading them to spoil much quicker. This can be problematic for individuals that find it difficult to make frequent trips to the market.

Whether you  decide to buy organic or not, Americans as a whole, do not eat enough fruits and vegetables.

Whichever you buy, the Mayo Clinic website highly recommends washing all produce thoroughly because all of it can contain dirt and bacteria, not to mention possible contamination from handling, no matter how it was produced.

The decision is yours.

A Healthy Lifestyle: What You Eat Is Probably Killing You

Bye-tombstoneThe food you eat on a daily basis is probably killing you. I’m not saying this simply for shock value, I’m saying it because it’s true. You may fool yourself into thinking you’re eating healthy because you only eat organic, are vegetarian, follow a low fat or high protein diet but the bottom line is… our food supply holds many dangers we need to know about.

I hope you’ll read this before you rush to judgement and click away to another page. I’m not a doctor or a scientist– I’m just a consumer that has the same struggles and concerns regarding health and living a good long life, just like you. What I hope to do in writing this, is to encourage you to look beyond the commonly accepted perceptions regarding the food you eat (and other products you are exposed to) and to stay healthy.

The three most important things I have to say are:

1) Educate yourself;

2) Don’t trust the packaging; and

3) Listen to your body.

 

It’s really that simple.

Educate Yourself

Last month another of those infamous reports came out damning high protein consumption and equating it to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. (Seriously? Is that really a logical comparison?) A few days ago another report came out saying salt wasn’t as bad for you as previously stated.

So who can you trust? I think most people realize that the results of many of the studies released to the public are funded by companies that stand to gain financially if the results are in their favor. Universities and medical institutions are funded, at least in part, by corporations. So my advice is: Don’t just accept a single report you hear in the news– Do your own research!

Do you know what GMO stands for? You should. (I‘ll be discussing that in the near future.)

Hot Dogs cause Cancer. At least, that’s what we’ve been told. Have you stopped eating them? Do you know what it is about them that was supposedly linked to Cancer? Are you putting you and your family at risk eating them? Do the research.

Don’t Trust the Packaging

Do you pay more for poultry and eggs that are free range? Are you aware that ‘free range‘ is not a term that is closely or specifically regulated? Have you purchased eggs because the package has a picture of a happy chicken in a field running free on the carton? Misleading packaging is not a crime.

I’ll repeat this: Misleading packaging is not a crime.

The way I understand it, it is perfectly legal for companies to use misleading pictures or words like some uses of words like: organic, all-natural, fresh, etc. — In their company name, brand and description because there is no law against it. It only becomes a crime when it can be proved in court that it was misleading and caused documented damages. (Example– all spring water doesn’t come from springs and all cows don’t happily munch on grass under apple trees.) There are regulations regarding the use of certain wording in a product name, or list of ingredients— and this can indicate whether the product is certified, which is where it can really get confusing and misleading.

So are you over-paying for the organic celery over the plain celery,  or purchasing the low-salt or low-fat products because you think it’s healthier for you? Read the label. (I’ll go into more detail about organic foods in my next post.) You could be wasting your money. You should know and need to know that anytime manufacturers takes something out of a product— they have to put something else in just to make it taste good. What they put in– could be worse for you than what they’ve removed!

Listen to your body

Are you gaining weight? Are you dieting but can’t lose weight? Do you frequently feel sick after you eat? Do you take medications to allow you to eat certain foods? Are you always tired or always hungry?

Listen to your body.

It isn’t just about over consumption or specific food allergies. There could be a variety of factors that could be affecting you physically or mentally, based on: what you eat, the amount, or combination of foods you eat… and how your body reacts.

Listen to your body.

I love chocolate. Too much of it makes me sick, as does too many chocolate-covered strawberries or too much chocolate & peanut butter. It doesn’t mean I’m allergic to it— but too much causes a negative chemical reaction in my body so I have to know when enough is enough.

We are all different. As a result, foods are going to affect us all differently, as well. Sure, there are known factors that can affect most of us– but there are also different reactions for different people. This is why I believe the food pyramid and popular diets aren’t helpful to all people. You can use them as a guide but you have to modify any healthy eating regiment based on what your body is telling you.

It’s Up To You

Obviously, we have to eat to survive. I’m only trying to encourage you to make educated decisions when you purchase your foods and not rely on the marketing or trust that every food sold is good for you. Food is a business. Businesses have to make money. Sometimes, the bottom line outweighs the nutritional value of the foods that are sold. You have to make a conscience effort to not be fooled.

 

(In the near future I’ll be writing posts about organic foods, GMO, chemicals in processed foods, contamination of our food supply and more nutritional concerns that affect us all. Feel free to comment or contact me if their is a topic you’d like me to explore.)

One Year Healthier

70 pounds lighter than one year ago.

70 pounds lighter than one year ago.

It’s been a year since I completely changed my diet. I’m 70 pounds lighter and I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to stick to it and it’s now just a way of life. I visited the doctor this week and received a clean bill of health. All my numbers checked out… so for those of you who buy the false claims that a low carb, high protein diet is unhealthy — think again.

Suit pants I wore to a wedding last year.

Suit pants I wore to a wedding last year.

Now that I have more free time, I’m back to working out and hope to at least tone up, if not build a little muscle mass. I still have some sagging skin from the weight loss and hope working out will help eliminate that too. I’m cautiously optimistic as I know I can’t completely fight the aging process.

I can’t even begin to describe how much better I feel– and even more important, how much better I feel about myself. I accomplished an important goal and feel good about my ability to stick with it.

I introduced a few more carbs in to my diet without any weight change but I’m still avoiding any regular consumption of bread and potatoes.

I don’t deprive myself of anything, just really careful to limited my intake or large amounts of carbs. It’s all about moderation. A binge is even okay as long as it doesn’t lead to daily abuse of the rules.

A few months ago I got a Fitbit One, a little monitoring device that can measure your steps, stairs, calories and sleep pattern. I absolutely love it! Even though I’m not measuring my calorie consumption, it does help monitoring my calorie expenditure combined with my daily activity (steps) and stairs climbed. You can sync it with the phone app or your computer to monitor your progress and it’s all stored online for free.

In the suit a year ago before changing my diet.

In the suit a year ago before changing my diet.

One huge difference I’ve noticed is that since losing my job (and the stress), my sleep pattern has greatly improved. My boss had made things so miserable for me, I was waking up an average of 11 times a night! That has dropped down now to 3 times a night. A huge improvement! Just goes to show you how stress can have a negative impact on your health.

I feel good now and have so much more energy than I did before. I sleep less, waking up naturally without that groggy morning feeling I used to get. All in all, it has been one of the best decisions in my life.

I still get so many people asking me how I lost the weight and if it was hard. It really wasn’t… and it’s not that hard to maintain either. You just have to make the commitment… to yourself and to your health. Excuses will never equal results.

Anyone… and I mean ANYONE can do it!

Caught with my pants down. 70 pounds lighter. I lost ten inches off my waistline!

Caught with my pants down. 70 pounds lighter. I lost ten inches off my waistline!

Happy and healthy!

Happy and healthy!

Pizza Cheat Day

If you told me I had to pick only one thing to eat the rest of my life it would be pizza hands down. Thin, double crust, stuffed, New York or Chicago style, even frozen— it doesn’t matter, pizza is my favorite food. I can’t resist a hot steaming slice, dripping with melted cheese and loaded with spicy goodness. Well, at least until now.

Since Michael and I began our journey towards healthier living four months ago, we haven’t had pizza– not that pizza is bad for you– but it carries a lot of the carbs we are trying to avoid in our current stage of eating reform. This is where Cheat Day comes in. Cheat Day is something we invented when we were on a strict diet several years ago as a way of rewarding our progress and in an attempt to not get too bored with the dietary regime. It’s not a pig out day where it’s okay to eat everything in sight. It’s just an opportunity to eat something that doesn’t fit with the current plan.. a cheat. Of course, I realize now this is how I should always eat, making rich foods and desserts a luxury, not a staple.

Last May I bought a Groupon certificate for a local pizza joint, didn’t use it right away, started the low carb diet and found we were faced with the coupon expiration. So Michael suggested a cheat day (our first since June). I was working Monday night and when I got off, I drove across town in the pouring rain to pick up our order on the way home.

I’d been looking forward to this all day. I mean, it’s PIZZA! Mention it and my ears perk up like a dog hearing the words special treat.

So I called to place the order from my car, figuring it should be ready by the time I got there… and when I mentioned Groupon, like a sign from God (“Thou shalt NOT consume carbs in the form of pizza.“) — the drama started.

The restaurant wasn’t going to accept the Groupon.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Apparently, Groupon routinely oversells, extends contracts and generally fails to completely inform its clients about the details of the services they provide. Anyway, in this case, the restaurant was under new management and I was told they would give me the same deal but I would have to pay for it and get a refund for the certificate from Groupon. This should have been a red flag… skip the cheat day and move on. But, since we’d already made this our plan for dinner, I agreed and placed the order.

I picked it up, they were very nice and apologetic and drove home. When I got there, Michael was just finishing blowing leaves– yes, in the dark and in the rain– and we were both starving. My mouth was watering from the aroma alone.

To make a long story even longer… I mean, short… the pizza was good. We filled up quickly, actually left a few slices… and then the pain set in. Going from less than 20 carbs a day to at least quadruple that amount in one sitting is not a great idea. I went to bed feeling bloated and sluggish regretting our decision.

I tossed and turned for a few hours and finally gave up on sleep. I got up, cleaned the kitchen, had an extremely engaging political discussion with a former student on Facebook and headed to the gym to work off my cheat meal.

Was it a good idea? In theory, yes; reality, no. I think next time I’ll go for a delicious, loaded salad. Perhaps my new favorite food.

 
My Weight Loss Update: 10/24/12:

Started: End of June

Goal Date: Mid-December

Starting Weight: 245 lbs.

Goal Weight: 185 lbs.  (which I haven’t been since my 20′s)

Current Weight (after 10 weeks): 197 lbs.

Total Weight Loss So Far: 48lbs.

Weight Left To Lose: 17 lbs.

 

You Are What You Eat – Body & Mind – Part Two: Mind

It’s pretty easy to understand the relationship between food and our bodies but what about how we are feeding our minds?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we become who we are, how we live and how we think. There’s been many studies on how the stimulus young children receive establishes who they are.  Though I think this is really interesting, I think overall it’s a little shortsighted. We frequently hear, you can’t change someone or people don’t change… but I don’t believe that to be entirely true. People can change but only if they really want to… or are forced to change.

First, I want to talk about the mind food we don’t ask for… the stimulus we receive from others and from our environment.

I think we can all agree that how we behave is closely related to how we think. Take education for instance. Because we think differently, we also learn differently. Most schools are not equipped to accommodate different learning styles. They have one set way of teaching and you either learn it (temporary memorization, in most cases) or you don’t. This has a direct relationship with our behavior. Some students seem to absorb information easily and others require hours and hours of studying. The third group are those that don’t even seem to try. This third group is made up of students that either don’t want to learn or more likely, are unable to learn in the style they are being taught and just give up. I can’t even being to tell you how many students I’ve met that have brilliant minds but are labeled ADHD or special needs because they can’t be forced into the strict mold our education system requires of them. Their brains just work differently.

Words, actions and events have a huge affect on us. Our interactions with others, intentional or not, mold who we are, or at least how we behave throughout our lifetime. I wrote a little about this in a past blog post. Negative input tends to cause stress, a lack of self confidence or self worth or even cause people to shut down. Harsh words from a teacher… the boss who tells you, you can’t do anything right… the experience of a tragic event… all are stimuli that can have a profound impact on us. Unfortunately, we can’t control these types of experiences from affecting our brains and they can have life changing results.

What about what we choose to put in our minds? We are able to make choices of what we do, who our friends are and what we read or watch for the most part. We can also choose to experience positive activities that will have a major effect on us. Our attitudes are shaped by what our mind consume. This, in turn, can change us.

I believe our spirituality is the essence of who we are. It is our inner path. Our spirituality is the most important part of our character. Religious beliefs can be an important part of our spirituality but it should not be misconstrued as the only part of it. Many people wear their religion on their sleeve like a badge, yet when it comes to who they really are, it may not be quite as visible. Our histories can cause us to put up walls blocking the world from seeing our true selves. When I hear someone referred to as an old soul, I think of someone that has moved beyond those barricades and is unafraid of revealing their inner self. It’s a gift to be able to live without fear and to look beyond the facade of others and see the true person that might be hidden behind layers of hurt, anger and betrayal.

Feeding the Mind

We are surrounded daily by negative mind food. Especially in this political year, the news is bursting with negativity. It’s important to at least balance the negative content we absorb with positive thoughts and behavior. We can’t find positive solutions when we focus on the negative. Unfortunately, our society loves to complain about all the problems that surround us but seldom take action to find solutions. If we’d focus on the solutions, we might actually be able to make some progress.

I see too often that people say they don’t like negative people, and then they surround themselves with them. Some people like to wallow in negativity. It feels good to vent frustrations but we all have to be willing to take the next step towards resolving our issues.

Our survival relies heavily on the strength of our body, mind and spirit. We tend to overlook the latter and that have serious implications on our overall health. Focusing on diet and exercise is only the beginning. We also have to feed and exercise our minds. Having a victim mindset is unhealthy. We must strive daily to look for the good and conquer our problems. With a positive outlook– reconnecting with our spirituality– we can overcome any obstacles and live healthy, meaningful lives.