A presidential candidate is finally talking about exercise in the context of reforming the broken American “health” care system.
At the Republican debate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy called on the health insurance industry to prioritize preventative medicine over high-dollar procedures that are only sought after disease has already taken hold.
“They’ll pay for anything like feeding tubes, doctors to be pill pushers,” Ramaswamy said, but not for “the procedures that can actually make these patients better.”
“Here’s the answer,” Ramaswamy added. “We need to start having diverse insurance options in a competitive marketplace that cover actual health, preventative medicine, diet, exercise, lifestyle, and otherwise.”
“We don’t have a health care system in this country. We have a sick care system,” Ramaswamy explained.
He’s right. If Americans are at all curious why health care has remained a huge issue in each recent presidential election, look no further than our existing level of baseline health. U.S. life expectancy has essentially flatlined as 6 in 10 American adults suffer from at least one chronic disease. Four in 10 suffer from two, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly 42 percent of American adults, meanwhile, are categorically obese and can expect their lifetime health expenditures to cost about double those of non-obese Americans.
Dr. Peter Attia wrote about the broken nature of our current health care system in his book, Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity, in March.
Health insurance companies won’t pay a doctor very much to tell a patient to change the way he eats, or to monitor the blood glucose levels in order to prevent him from developing type 2 diabetes. Yet insurance will pay for this same patient’s (very expensive) insulin after he has been diagnosed. Similarly, there’s no billing code for putting a patient on a comprehensive exercise program designed to maintain her muscle mass and sense of balance while building her resistance to injury. But if she falls and breaks her hip, then her surgery and physical therapy will be covered.
The U.S. spends roughly $3.6 trillion on health care every year but just 3 percent or less of that spending is targeted at prevention. U.S. health care spending, meanwhile, reached more than 18 percent of GDP in 2021, up from 5 percent in 1960.
If the focus on American health care started with healthspan instead of lifespan, Americans might not just live longer, Americans would live better for longer. Instead, the post-1960 dietary guidelines endorsed by the American Heart Association (AHA) led Americans down the path of the low-fat diet craze broadly detrimental to human health. Americans don’t just need to prioritize diet and exercise; they need to prioritize the right diet and exercise programs for their individual needs.