The Washington sports teams (ie, Republicans and Democrats) are tossing Obamacare around like the political football it’s become, often seeming to care more about winning partisan points than actually improving the health of Americans. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal Obamacare, then recently issued a mysterious tweet suggesting that it would “fall of its own weight.” Republicans, who now also control both houses of Congress, have arrived at the five-yard line without any game plan regarding how to replace it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York warns that killing Obamacare would “make America sick again”. Trump responded to this by calling Schumer and his supporters “clowns.” The whole debate is a sad joke. Sadly, the joke is on us.
Right now, millions of Americans are (to borrow a movie title) fat, sick, and nearly dead. That is the real problem, and seemingly nobody wants to talk about it. So, let’s talk about it. Here are four solutions staring us in the face that neither Republicans nor Democrats care to acknowledge.
1. Living healthy equals saving money
We could easily afford Obamacare or any other national or even privatized healthcare system if Americans were simply healthier. Living healthier would cause healthcare costs to plummet and take the burden off overwhelmed hospitals, doctors, and nurses. Our premiums and deductibles would automatically drop in cost and the system would become manageable.
2. Fix the government, fix the problem
The United States government has created our health problem, and Uncle Sam is getting America fat and sick with agricultural subsidies that make fast food and junk food cheap and abundant. The California Public Interest Research Group’s study “Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies for Fresh Produce and Junk Food” makes a powerful case that the government’s hundreds of billions of dollars in agricultural subsidies—and related assistance—supports the very commodity crops (such as corn, wheat, and soy) that are primarily fed to farmed animals and go into sweeteners. The result is artificially cheap burgers, ice cream, and candy. This is outrageous at a time when two-thirds of Americans are overweight and should be eating apples and kale—foods which don’t get much help from the government. Furthermore, The United States Department of Agriculture, which is rife with Big Ag apologists, promotes meat and dairy and seems openly hostile to plant-based alternatives. The USDA oversees the American Egg Board, which has been caught trying to put healthful, cholesterol-free, plant-based alternatives such as vegan company Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo out of business.
3. Stop promoting a preventable disease …
By promoting the wholesale consumption of meat and dairy, the US government is basically promoting America’s leading preventable killer: heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control says, “About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year—that’s one in every four deaths. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.” High cholesterol is a key risk factor for heart disease. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) explains, “… animal products are the only significant source of cholesterol in the diet … When you eat animal products, you are ingesting that animal’s cholesterol—in the cell membranes of animal cells you are eating—which is then added to the cholesterol that you naturally produce.” Plants contain no cholesterol. But, does the US government do the math and subsidize and promote fruit and vegetables? Hardly. Think those quadruple bypass operations are cheap? They aren’t. The same irrationality applies to our nation’s approach to cancer. The World Health Organization has officially labeled processed meat as carcinogenic, yet hospitals still serve it, even to people who are suffering from cancer.
4. … and start promoting healthy eating
If the US government began promoting a healthful plant-based diet, our national dependence on pharmaceuticals would fade, ending the crisis over the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs. Heart disease is exhibit A, proving that Americans are drowning in cholesterol-lowering drugs, taking more pills than ever before. But heart disease is still our leading killer. As PCRM’s Neal Barnard states, “Our healthcare system’s approach to treating heart disease is upside-down. When patients have high cholesterol, doctors are quick to search for a solution in a pill bottle. But many doctors never ask: why is the patient’s cholesterol high in the first place? In most cases, the answer is a diet based on meat, dairy products, and eggs. Studies show that a healthy diet and lifestyle can prevent up to 80 percent of all heart attacks—something no drug can accomplish.” But Big Pharma has high-powered lobbyists who push pills over prevention. As The New York Times recently reported, “The pharmaceutical industry has been spreading dollars around the nation’s capital. Drug makers doled out $240 million for lobbying purposes last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, making it the biggest spender.” Prevention and reversal of illness is too simple and logical, and cable news pundits and politicians prefer to argue about open enrollments and reconciliation bills. Every time I am asked to do a televised interview about healthcare and manage to bring up these fundamentals, I’m cut off and regarded as strangely off-point. Sometimes, the supposed “best and the brightest” seem dumb and dumber. Or, maybe, they really don’t want a solution. After all, if we were all healthy and fit, what would they have to argue about?
Jane Velez-Mitchell is a TV journalist, New York Times bestselling author, and the founder/editor of JaneUnChained.com, a vegan news source with daily live videos.
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