Health should be focus, not insurance

IN THE MONTHS to come we will continue to have a debate about improving the U. S. health care system. Almost entirely, the conversation will be about health insurance and health care. However, it is our failure to invest in systems of health that have us lagging behind the nations of the industrialized world. We need to escape from a conversation about improving health care into one about improving health.

Let's consider two realms where attention and resources could do much more for our state and nation than changes to health insurance and the health care system.

First, health begins with the foods we eat, the education we receive, the neighborhoods we live in, the jobs available to us, and the health of the natural environment. These social determinants of health far outweigh health care and health insurance in their importance to health of our communities and nation. For the one out of three children and two out of three adults in New Mexico who are overweight, access to the best health care and best health insurance will only serve to treat the downstream consequences of their... weight.

The U. S. Office of the Surgeon General estimates that we spend $ 3. 8 billion each year to treat New Mexicans with preventable conditions - e. g. high blood pressure, smoking. Diabetes alone costs our state $ 1 billion each year ! Health insurance for every New Mexican will not fix these astronomical figures.

Investing in better health infrastructure - healthier food systems, more walking / biking-friendly communities, clean air / water, improved early childhood and public school education - is much more important to improving health than health insurance...

Second, the wide differences in our health in this country are rooted in the much larger societal inequities that we are failing to address. Unfortunately, the gaps in health and wealth continue to grow wider. Some groups of Americans can expect to live into their 80 s, while for many marginalized communities, making it to your 60 s is beating the odds.

Take a person who lives in poverty, has few prospects for employment, and who lives amidst violence. Giving that person the best of health insurance, the best access to health care, will do little to change their prospects for health. While hard to quantify, best estimates are that only 5 percent to 10 percent of inequities in health -e. g. those which are unjust, unfair and preventable - are due to inequities in health care....

I am hopeful we can move toward conversations that move far beyond health insurance changes toward ones that focus on creating a more health-promoting and equitable society. With that as our focus, creating health policy for a healthier New Mexico and nation becomes the mission, freeing us from political agendas that currently guide the conversation at the state and national level. Knowing the enormous human and financial costs if we continue down the current path, let's claim as our own the mission of creating a new path, one that actually leads to improved health. That's a conversation worth having.

ANTHONY FLEG, M. D. / MPH ( Master's of Public Health )

Albuquerque

Do complete job on Obamacare repeal

LAST MONTH we saw that some members of Congress don't take their responsibility to the Constitution and constituents seriously. Congressional leadership and President Donald Trump urged representatives to vote for the American Health Care Act, a bill claiming to repeal Obamacare that did not actually repeal Obamacare. The bill would have left in place Obamacare's cost-driving regulations, relegating all of us to an insurance market where premiums remain too high and provider networks remain too narrow.

Why would any member of Congress vote not just for pretend-repeal of Obamacare but for a bill that will actually make insurance markets worse ? Because doing something just to be able to say you've done something is a lot easier than getting the policy right.

U. S. Rep. Steve Pearce took a courageous stand against a bad bill being pushed by his own party's president and House leadership. Americans should thank Pearce and the rest of the House Freedom Caucus for fighting to repeal Obamacare's regulations.

CURTIS SMITH

Corrales

Single - payer Single-payer health care system works

HERE'S WHY we need a single-payer health care system :

True story. My father was a doctor practicing in the New England area for 30 years. All that time he and his colleagues would rail against the idea of socialized medicine - single-payer - in the U. S.

After he retired, he married a woman from Canada and also became a Canadian citizen. He would spend part of the year in Toronto, part in the United States. In 2015 my father was diagnosed with bone cancer. He had most of his treatments done in Canada because the medication he needed cost $ 2, 000 per dosage in the United States of America and was only a $ 20 copay in Canada.

He spent a year trying every new drug there was. Finally, he ended up in a Toronto hospital for a month - fourth-best cancer hospital in the world - and another month in a hospice center.

For all of that, my father never got a bill ; his doctors never sent invoices.

My father never had to wait for months for an appointment - debunking that myth. His wait was no longer than a wait here in the United States. When I would visit him I was impressed with how friendly and kind the hospital staff was - everyone. My father said that that is because a socialized society truly looks after all of its citizens and the feeling of together is very strong up there. I felt it, too.

At the end of his life my father told me that he had been wrong about socialized - single-payer - health care. It was a terrific system and he had been lucky to end up in Canada. His heirs were also lucky because it meant that his hard-earned money did not go to the drug or health insurance companies. He did not become bankrupt trying to fight his cancer. He never had to decide if he could afford one of the new treatments.

His children are very grateful for the single-payer health care system of Canada, and I urge everyone to push for a similar plan here in the United States for all of us.

KENDEL DREYER

Santa Fe