Public Health vs Personal Health Responsibility

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public health Public health care has been a 0n-going platform of politicians for years. However, the debate between personal health care responsibility and public health is a sensitive subject. On one side of the debate, people believe too many entitlement programs already exist, while others say more needs to be done for the underinsured. Of course, a greater issue may be rising healthcare costs. According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, healthcare costs are expected to rise an alarming 5.5 percent per year for the next seven years, reaching $6 trillion by 2027. The two major factors are an aging population and the price tag of health care services. Such as outpatient procedures, overnight hospital stays, and prescription drugs.

The costs of prescription drugs have the greatest impact. Pharmaceutical companies are known for their attempts to monopolize the industry.  The US spends more on prescription drugs per capita than any other country in the world, according to Financial Times Magazine. Fortunately, there are prescription plans to help with those costs, and access to out-patient procedures has increased thereby avoiding the cost of an overnight hospital stay. Nonetheless, we can agree more needs to be done. Although a hot topic, we’ll discuss that at another time.

Advocates for a national public health care plan say it’s necessary to address health care needs. Opponents feel people should be held accountable for taking care of themselves. So why is it not as simple as, ‘take care of yourself’?

Challenges to Personal Responsibility Health Care

The presumption that everyone can and should be responsible for their healthcare care does not consider all the factors. Access to relevant information can literally be the public healthdifference between life in death in any situation. In some cases, our environment is what dictates that level of access. Therefore, ignorance is an obstacle since now everyone has access to pertinent information. Not to mention the inability to comprehend it.

Many people also suffer from ailments inherited through genetics. Combine that with a less-than-ideal diet, improper exercise, and culturally accepted, yet bad habits, the challenges become clearer.

If you have a primary care physician, chances are likely that you have some type of health insurance. It is also likely, that you are proactive in suggested prevention methods and any necessary care plans. Although there are things outside of your control, your concerns and immediate feedback enable you to impact your health. Contrast that to someone who obtains medical treatment only during an Emergency Room (ER), or after-hours medical facility visit. Many times, subsequent follow-ups are typically prolonged and may result in additional or permanent injuries.

A public health care plan may help to reduce ER visits, increase communication between the public and the medical community. However, there is always the inevitable question of how to cover the costs associated with such plans. Many Americans are not willing to accept a tax increase to cover the bad decisions of others regarding their personal health care.

Public Health Care Challenges

public healthSeveral underlying challenges and issues are blocking the road to an easy ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. As we confront an expected new normal, political, and ideological controversies surround the question of whether the broader society should be held responsible for personal health behaviors, or the individual. Although a balanced approach is needed to address the question, how to find that balance is the more difficult question.

For instance, that statement, “Individuals are responsible for their health,” means something different to everyone. Therefore,  if the starting point cannot be agreed upon, there is no way to decide the best course of action. We’re not suggesting to avoid the conversation, but that a specific narrative should guide that conversation. Equal access to public health care must be equally affordable.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) promised to make health care equally accessible, but also affordable. However, according to Health Reform, most of the ACA enrollees receive premium tax credits. This helps them afford the monthly premiums. However,  if your income is above 400% of the Federal Poverty Level or $100,400/yr for a family or $48,560/yr for individuals, you’re not eligible for subsidies.

So if middle-income earners struggle to pay the premiums of a public health care plan, does it help or do more harm?

Public health care should supplement personal health care responsibility. Despite the challenges and limitations, taking personal responsibility for one’s decisions and subsequent actions start with a decision.

Opinion by Jireh Gibson


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