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Fri, Dec 26, 2014

DR. KESTNER: Predictions for future of your health care

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Almost daily I hear people commenting on the apparent turmoil in the American health care system.

Some are alarmed at the Congressional version of health care reform.

Others are frustrated with today’s offerings and see any reform as an improvement. Some comment accurately that our current system does not offer “health care” at all, but rather “disease care.”

I have taken some time to compile what seem to be likely outcomes of the changes that will be coming our way. Here are a few of the adjustments we will likely have to make in the near future.

1. For everyone that pays taxes, your health care costs will go up.

Perhaps as much as 100 percent. Whether through higher taxes or insurance premiums, or probably both, you will be paying more than ever. The only people who will escape this increase are those that receive benefits for free.

Insurance companies will be required to cover people who have greater health risks.

That means that premiums will go up.

As you might expect, insurance company profits will be protected. (Of course, if the insurance companies did not make a profit, Congress might have to pass an emergency bail-out bill for them.)

Taxes will go up to cover increased health care costs.

Federal programs are not generally known for being cost-efficient. As more people are covered by federal health care, taxpayers will foot the bill.

2. Health care will be rationed more severely.

Think it is not being rationed now?

Your insurance company, Medicare and Medicaid decide what options you have and they restrict coverage for certain procedures.

Some of the restrictions are reasonable and some are not.

During the next decade, expect to see much more restrictive rationing. This is called practicing medicine by statistics.

3. More doctors will be from foreign countries.

This is a trend that has been increasing for more than two decades.

There are a number of reasons for this.

One reason is that there simply is a greater need for trained doctors than what is being met by the American medical education system.

Another is that many U.S.-trained physicians choose to go for the higher paying specialty positions rather than primary care.

A third reason is that there are many medical positions that are relatively low paying for the amount of training required and the workload.

These positions are in rural areas, institutional positions such as Veterans’ Administration hospitals, community clinics and other posts.

Although low paying compared to other U.S. medical positions, compared to opportunities in their native country, these jobs are dream assignments for foreign doctors.

4. Alternative and integrative medicine clinics will prosper.

More people are discovering that there are options other than traditional pharmaceutically-based care that are safe and effective.

Some complimentary and alternative medical services are covered under insurance policies, while others are predominantly paid for out-of-pocket by the patient.

More medical clinics, including prestigious organizations such as Mayo Clinic, Harvard and other well-known entities are now offering integrative medicine services.

These services are combinations of traditional medical care along with treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic or massage.

5. More patients will begin focusing more on taking care of their health.

This shift, although very positive, will not be widespread for at least another decade.

Only after several years of severe restrictions have occurred will a majority of health care consumers begin to take greater responsibility for their own heath so as to avoid the need to depend on treatment options.

For patients this will be a very beneficial change, but a reluctant one for many.

It is estimated that nearly 60 percent of the conditions that are currently being treated are the result of lifestyle choices.

That means we could potentially cut our national health care bill in half simply by making better choices.

Only time will tell how accurate these predictions are. However, you don’t have to wait to fulfill the last one.

You can make that transition for yourself right now. Even better than receiving the best health care is being so healthy that you don’t need it.

Next week: A report on a fascinating new medical study that surprised the researchers.

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Dr. Kestner
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Health Care, Living Well, Mark Kestner, Voices
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