Is America Ready for Health Care?

It made a lot of sense to me to have universal coverage. We would save money in the long run because people would get preventive care reducing the need for more expensive treatment later.

That was before I saw a report from the Episcopal Church Medical Trust.

If you were an insurance company and had the chance to insure 15,000 active and retired clergy, lay employees, and their families, wouldn’t you jump at the chance? Wouldn’t you assume that this was an intelligent clientele who would do all the right things? The folks at ECMT thought that too until they ran the numbers.

This year, for the first time, they were able to look at the data, and they got themselves a shock.

They broke the numbers up into four groups by age and gender and started out with babies. Did people take their babies in for regular check-ups? A lot did, but some didn’t. The groups ranged between 60% and 100%. And as the babies grew older, the percentage declined.

The policy provides for two dental cleanings a year, three for the retirerd. It’s a critical area. Failure to get regular checkups has been linked with diabetes, compromised immune systems, and osteoporosis. Clergy and church employees are educated and intelligent and would take care of that, wouldn’t they? The reality is that one third trundled themselves off to their friendly neighborhood dentist twice a year. One third went once. One third didn’t go! Incredible!

What about an annual physical? Maybe you’re scared of dentists, but the annual physical doesn’t come at you with drills. All the same, way less than half showed up: between 9% and 27% of adult males ages 40 — 49; adult females ages 30 — 39 did better—at 22% to 44%.

What about breast cancer screenings? One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer but early detection brings a 98% survival rate. 30% of those in the plan didn’t bother to check.

Maybe we aren’t ready for universal health care. Maybe the government could start with a much less expensive step one: universal screenings, cleanings, and check ups. The health system would save a lot of money right there; probably more than enough to pay for the program. Once we get people into that kind of preventive care, maybe there’ll be more interest in what comes next.

And maybe Episcopal bishops need to get the message to their clergy. God has a plan to protect you: it starts with regular checkups.

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