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Innovation

Everybody needs health care

Millions of Americans engage in a health "black out period," starting around age 20, usually lasting until about 40, sometimes extending well into middle age. This costs us all money
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

There is a simple truth that was left untold in the health care debate, a truth repeated to me often by doctors, insurers, policy wonks, even other reporters, but never emphasized when the political heat was on.

Everybody needs health care.

Not insurance, care. Regular preventive health care.

There's more scientific evidence for it this week, a study from the Annals of Family Medicine showing that young adults need cholesterol screens, even kids do, to prevent later coronary disease. But only 70% get them.

In a way this is new science, because only in the last 25 years, with the rise of statin drugs, have we had a simple, effective way to combat cholesterol. I didn't get a serious check until age 45. I nearly died. (I probably cut 10 years off my lifespan anyway.)

It's not just cholesterol. Obesity starts with youth, obesity rates are rising, young people who aren't getting regular care are setting themselves up for an early, and very expensive death.

In short, denial kills.

We all need health care because we are surrounded by life, with temptations that can kill us if left untreated. Both our needs and desires carry health risks. Food carries health risks. So does sex. So do our impulses for risk, to work hard, and to just sit around.

Most of us get some form of pediatric care, but those in poverty probably need more than they are getting. More care can create better habits that let poor people earn more and avoid disease later, saving everyone a bundle.

Millions of Americans engage in a health "black out period," starting around age 20, usually lasting until about 40, and sometimes (if you are uninsured) extending well into middle age.

This costs us all money, and costs you life. This is what science and health experts are telling us, every day. They are practically screaming it.

The continuing campaign against health reform is founded on this denial. Government can't make us buy health insurance, say the opponents of reform.

What they are also saying is, government can't make us go to the doctor. It can't make us listen to lectures to stop smoking, to lose weight, to use a condom, to cut drinking, to exercise, to live right today if we want to live healthy tomorrow.

When they post here -- and they post here often -- they call it the "nanny state."

They're right.

But an annual check-up isn't just the lecture. It's also the tests which precede it. This is your blood pressure, your cholesterol count, your blood sugar level. And it's the offer of help. Here's a program, a club, a clinic.

Health reform opponents might respond they should be free to sign a waiver. But a waiver won't work. The medical profession, our entire health system, is based on the ethical premise that you give care.

Sure, an aging, diabetic, poverty line patient won't get the same care as a middle class man with elevated cholesterol, but the system will try. And it will cost you -- through your insurance, or your private payment -- a lot more to pay for that old diabetic than the insured guy.

You can't demand doctors they must watch people die to suit your political ideology.

We know this. The science is clear. Political denial won't change it. Rejecting or even overthrowing health reform won't change it.

It will just make the truth more stark, as America's lifespan falls, and we face a future with ever fewer aging, querulous white folks and a growing army of young, unhealthy, black and brown ones.

Enjoy your tea, my friends. Science says it's the only thing you're doing that's good for you.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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