Jeff Margolis: Be proactive and focus on everyday health
As we begin to emerge from the dark COVID cloud, there have been some rays of sunshine in terms of progress in healthcare in 2022.
Congress has acted bipartisanly to fund research and vaccines and, oddly enough, has spent little energy arguing whether or not people deserve health care.
The Cut Inflation Act of 2022, signed into law by President Biden in August, included important health provisions. Among them: lower prescription drug prices in Medicare through price negotiation with manufacturers; requiring drug companies to pay rebates if prices rise faster than inflation for drugs used by Medicare beneficiaries; capping out-of-pocket drug expenses for Medicare Part D beneficiaries at $2,000 per year; and the three-year extension of the enhanced Affordable Care Act grants that Congress passed last year as part of the US bailout law.
In the second half of 2022, there was enough confidence in vaccination and control measures around COVID-19 to start thinking about a new normal in healthcare. The data affirmed that those who maintained better health and well-being fared more favorably than those with underlying conditions and less healthy lifestyles. But it also reminded us that sometimes even very fit people are overcome by new illnesses.
Looking ahead to 2023, Americans deserve a healthcare system that supports health in our daily lives and doesn’t just treat us when we’re sick. It is the actions we take regarding nutrition, fitness, sleep, mental health, relationships and financial management and how these factors are affected by the social determinants that make up the vast majority of what governs our health and our total well-being.
Yet our health system treats disease with limited support to prevent disease.
It’s time to move from health care to health care, starting with a broader perspective on employee benefit plans. Medicare, Medicaid, military and commercial plans should be looked at through the lens of physical health, mental health, social health, financial health, and whenever possible, individual purpose. These categories should start to appear more clearly in descriptions of benefits in addition to doctor visits, hospital visits, medications, etc. -Be benefits more clearly and educate their employees on what’s available.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services need to take a step back and examine how less expensive lifestyle and daily living support (nutrition and loneliness reduction) can significantly reduce the cost of traditional medical care. And consumer permissions to combine non-medical data with health data in the best interest of their health must become commonplace when signing up for health benefits.
In 2023, large employers will outpace government approaches to health benefits. They will address total wellness while emphasizing the connections between primary care and consumers through digital, virtual and physical means.
Predictably, politicians will continue to publicly attack pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies as the cause of the economic challenges in health care. But they will work together in the background as private industry supports the innovation imperative.
Health sector and government decision makers need to be on the same page more often. But let’s underscore the fact that elected government officials, policy makers and employers are beginning to understand that health care is about more than just providing access to responsive health care.
Imagine a world in which the healthcare system actually works with people to improve their overall health – a world where healthcare becomes proactive instead of reactive.
Jeff Margolis is the author of “Not Just in Sickness…But in Health: Moving Beyond Health Care to Optimizing Health for All.” He wrote this for InsideSources.com. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.