I am offended by TV ads that taunt you with mystery pills. The ads don't tell you what affliction these pills are supposed to treat. Rather, they depict individuals basking in idyllic splendor. Ergo, mystery pill equals life in all its pain-free, ailment-free glory. What I find so repugnant about these ads is their assumption that we are a nation of pill addicts, that we will rush to find out if the mystery pill isn't something we should add to our stash.
The pervasiveness of these ads says a lot about the health-care industry's emphasis on treating sickness and lack of attention to preventing it. I am all for an infrastructure to treat the sick. But whatever happened to "prevention is better than cure"? Therapies that enable you to minimize, if not altogether eliminate, your chances of falling ill are largely viewed askance. Invariably, you pay for them out of your own pocket, which, ironically, makes them a luxury for poor, working-class and even some middle-class families. That makes me wonder about our lawmakers' priorities when it comes to ensuring the health of our nation.
As a baby boomer, I am staring at the age of Medicare. Were I to lose the good health with which I am blessed, and which I work hard to maintain, the prognosis for my care in the hands of our health-care infrastructure is not encouraging—unless I become very wealthy. Take the shortage of nurses. The Journal of the American Medical Association warns that unless nursing attracts more people in the next decade, hospitals could be severely short-staffed just as I and my fellow baby boomers begin to reach the age of 65. The Department of Health and Human Services says the country could well see a shortage of more than 400,000 nurses by 2010.
Then there's the grumbling about us 78 million baby boomers. Employers complain that retiree health costs are a burden; health plans say they can't afford to take Medicare patients; doctors say they have no financial incentive to take Medicare payments. So the Medicare bill President Bush signed in December gives employers $70 billion in direct payments and $16 billion more in new tax breaks over the next 10 years to keep them from dropping coverage for retirees; an extra $1.9 billion in Medicare payments to physicians; and rate subsidies plus a $12 billion enticement fund to private health-care companies.
That's $125 billion doled out to the health-care industry and businesses so they would do right by my generation. Yet, federal estimates predict that Medicare will become insolvent in 2026.
The other day I caught a cold. No, I did not take the flu shot. I treated my cold with ground black pepper mixed with honey and a brew of garlic and onion. The cold fled in three days, and I'm using an ancient natural discipline to keep it away.
But that's just me—ticked off about the complaining, politicking and profiteering surrounding the prospect of my losing my good health.
By Rosalind McLymont