Tag Archives: health care cost

Why Salads Cost More than Big Macs

One of the major issues facing health care today is the cost which Americans must pay in order to obtain basic care.  Then the care they receive does nothing to address the problem they actually have.  For example, if a person walks into their doctor’s office with high cholesterol, they are almost always giving a statin medication to artificially lower their cholesterol.  The reason their cholesterol is high is not because of a statin deficiency.  It’s because of poor diet and lack of exercise.  Those causes, sadly, are hardly ever addressed.

The cost of this type of health care, according to some experts, is going to bankrupt this country if things are not changed and changed soon.  I have written many times about prevention and how that is the true key to reducing overall health costs in this country.  I absolutely believe that is true.  However, what if our government spent money a little differently in the mean time to reduce the cost of healthy foods?  Maybe that would put a dent in our rising obesity epidemic?

I can’t tell you how many people tell me that it’s just too darn expensive to eat healthy.  While I believe some people like to use that as a convenient excuse not to eat correctly, I believe most people have a hard time affording some healthy foods.  Just the other day I was at a local farmer’s market and one 3 oz. bag of shelled walnuts was $6!  A $6 snack? And a small one at that!

Often times fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds are among the most expensive items at the grocery store.  The cheap stuff includes low grades or less desirable cuts of  meat, dairy and all grain products.  Want to know why?  Below is a graphic of what our government chooses to subsidize and in what percentage of the whole. (Original article can be found here.)

Subsidized America

Of course lobbying plays a major role in what gets subsidized, but that doesn’t change the above graphic.  You’ll notice that vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes are subsidized the least while the meat, dairy and grain industry make out like bandits.

Meat is an essential part of our diets.  We need animal protein.  It is the only complete source of protein.  It also contains healthy fats that are vital to survival.  When consumed properly is the absence of abundant carbohydrate, it is perfectly healthy.  Do not let mainstream medicine talk you into being a vegetarian.  Eliminating meat is a big mistake. That being said, their piece of the pie should not be so significantly higher than the other important part of our diet – fruits, veggies and nuts and seeds.

The grain industry gets the second largest chunk.  The current government recommendations on the right in the diagram above more than make up for the lack of subsidy.  Our government recommends that everyone eat 11 servings of grains per day.  And where has this gotten us?  It has lead us straight into an obesity epidemic.  It’s the carbohydrate consumption that is out of control in this country.  If people were eating too much high quality meat, I doubt we’d see the problems we are seeing today.

McDonald’s, whose product’s success relies mostly of meat and refined grain, are okay with the current subsidization I am sure.  Let’s face it, when you buy a Big Mac for $.99 you aren’t buying it for the iceberg lettuce or the soft tomato they put on it.

At the very top of the subsidy pyramid are vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes.  They account for just 2.28% of government subsidy.  They get less money than sugar and alcohol do.  See a problem with that?  However, does this translate to higher prices you ask?  Check out the diagram below.

The cost of fresh fruit and vegetables has clearly gone up while most other foods have remained the same or decreased.

This illustrates very well just how much subsidizing food products can have an effect on price.  While fruits and vegetables have increased in price, soda has plummeted.  This is a major issue, especially considering that soda is a major contributor to preventable disease in the United States.

With this knowledge it is easy to see that a salad could easily cost just as much if not more than a whole meal at McDonald’s.  The soda, burger and bun all get larger subsidies than the salad that you didn’t buy.

Health care cost are at an all time high and the complexities of the problem are astounding.  I think the above is also a large part of the problem.  While senators and congressmen are elected to impart the will of the people, they rarely do.  In order to get elected it takes a lot of money.  Big business has a lot of money.  Put 2 and 2 together.  Special interest groups control political action (or lack thereof) and people suffer with expensive salads and cheap Big Macs.

My advice?  While good food might be more expensive to eat, it’s worth it in the end.  You might get away with eating a poor diet for years and years while your young, but it catches up with us as we age.  Don’t short change yourself in terms of your diet.  It only ends up costing you more in the end.

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Medicare pays for failed back surgeries but not highly rated chiropractic

I recently read an article summarizing a study that showed that risky and unnecessary back surgeries are costing Americans billions in health care costs.  As a chiropractor whose practice focuses more on functional neurology and nutrition, I have rarely posted about traditional chiropractic.  This was too important to pass up.

The study of Medicare patients showed that costlier, more complex spinal fusion surgeries are on the rise — and sometimes done unnecessarily — for a common lower back condition caused by aging and arthritis.

What is even scarier is that the study showed that these surgeries are leading to more hospitalizations and even death in some cases.

The cost to Medicare, just for the hospital charges for the types of back surgery reviewed is about $1.65 billion a year, according to the researchers.  Medicare is a government program that is funded by you and me.  Failed back surgeries are one major reason health care is so expensive in this country.

The study examined two types of back surgeries – decompression and fusion.

In a decompression procedure, the simplest method in the Medicare study, a surgeon cuts away part of the bone that’s painfully pressing on nerves. It can cost about $30,000 in hospital and surgeon fees.

For a fusion, a surgeon binds two or more vertebrae together using a bone graft, with or without plates and screws. The researchers defined a complex fusion as one involving three or more vertebrae or more than one side of the spine. Fusions cost $60,000 to $90,000.

The researchers analyzed data on more than 32,000 Medicare patients who had one of the three types of surgeries in 2007.

The study found that fusions were often done in patients that had little or no need for the more complex surgery.  Fusion is significantly more complicated and leads to more secondary issues.

The lead author on the study concludes that aggressive marketing of devices used in complex fusions is likely playing a role in the increase in these types of surgeries. The marketing includes ads in medical journals and lectures by surgeons on the payroll of device manufacturers.  There is little evidence to support that they are safe or effective for these patients.

The lead author also concluded that patients should ask their doctors about alternatives to complicated operations. Could steroid injections and physical therapy be tried?  While I applaud him for recognizing that there are alternatives he failed to mention the most successful one, chiropractic.

Why Chiropractic?

Chiropractic has been shown in many studies to be very effective in managing low back pain.  It has also been shown to be far more cost effective than surgery.  Think about it this way; a chiropractic visit may cost about $100.  This would likely include an adjustment to correct any fixations in the spine and some other form of therapy.  This might include stretching, neuromuscular work, electrical stim, hot or cold packs or rehabilitative exercises/instruction.

At $100 a visit you could get 900 office visits to the chiropractor or 1 spinal fusion.  To me the choice is obvious.  You certainly wouldn’t need 900 office visits to your chiropractor to get better, but it puts it into perspective for you.

On top of that, there is no garauntee that your back surgery is going to work and the risk of serious complication or death is relatively high.  There is no risk of death or serious complication from chiropractic treatment of the low back.

The study showed that many people are being given unnecessary back surgeries.  They looked at Medicare patients only.  Recently patients in “The Medicare Demonstration Project” gave chiropractors high marks for satisfaction.  Obviously Medicare patients are finding relief with chiropractic care.

The Medicare Demonstration Project revealed the long-awaited results from a congressionally mandated pilot project testing the feasibility of expanding chiropractic services in the Medicare program.

When patients were asked to rate their satisfaction on a 10-point scale, 87 percent of patients in the study gave their doctor of chiropractic a level of 8 or higher. What’s more, 56 percent of those patients rated their chiropractor with a perfect 10.

The very same population of people were studied in these two studies.  While not everyone in the Medicare Demonstration Project had the same conditions as the people in the study that examined back surgeries, surely there was some overlap.  What can be said for sure is that the over all population of people studied between the two were very similar because they were all Medicare patients.

In order to solve the health care crisis in this country, “alternative” therapies that are effective and certainly more cost effective need to be implemented.  Chiropractic fits that bill.  It is clear that people who would benefit from having more access to chiropractic would be satisfied with the care they received.  It is time for Medicare to reexamine what they choose to cover if they want to save the American people their hard earned money.

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