Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wellness Can Cost an Arm and a Leg

Wellness is the new buzz word for common sense. Now if the intelligentsia want to create a new age concept for what formerly was called nutrition, exercise, and hygiene, that's just swell. Preventative medicine, public sanitation, and healthy habits can provide a better quality of life and maybe add a few months to it. One thing that all this concern with health and longevity isn't is cheap.

We all know we should eat well, exercise, get enough rest, avoid smoking and drink with moderation. That's the easy and cheap part. The expensive part is the medical treatment. It's not the treatment of acute problems, but the chronic illnesses we are preprogrammed with that are breaking us.

An example of this is the class of drugs called "beta blockers" (BB). BB's are used to treat hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, congestive heart failure and a slew of other problems. These wonder drugs lower the blood pressure, slow the heart, steady the rhythm and decrease the heart's need for oxygen. A side effect is that the person feels poopy; like a car with a governor on the throttle. This one class of miracle drugs probably increases ancillary costs to Medicare about a billion a month. The nursing homes are full of non-ambulatory, demented, elderly who are waiting to die from urinary sepsis. They are blind, deaf, incontinent, they need feeding tubes and skilled nursing care. However, because of the "beta blockers", that heart is chugging along at 50 beats a minute and their blood pressure is 100/60. These drugs are so beneficial that if the heart rate drops to 40 the patient will get a pacemaker just to remain on them.

This is the flip side of modern medicine. Wonder drugs, screening tests, glucose monitoring, mammograms, PSA's and personal trainers may lead to a longer and healthier life but, they DON'T save money. So when some politician tells you he is going to save you money through preventative medicine and wellness programs, he is a liar. Death is cheap.

No comments: