Seven important healthcare matters and costs Nanny Government doesn’t talk about
Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 2:01PM
Kay B. Day, Editor in AIDS, Children's Health Insurance, Democrats, HIV, U.S. healthcare costs, US Healthcare, US Lifestyles, smoking, trauma

Photo: CDC/Amanda MillsI recently wrote about a 90 year old World War II veteran who got into a spot of trouble because he liked to enjoy a cigarette in the breezeway of his housing complex. Smoking there was against the rules, and at one point, it looked like he might be forced to move. Voices were raised, however, and a solution acceptable to all was reached.

Writing about him inspired the column I am writing now.

I was amused when I updated my original column at TUSR and posted a note on Facebook where numerous people in my circle had agreed to help cover the cost of e-cigs for the vet if he chose that option. One ‘friend,’ however, expressed concerns about the elderly gentleman’s health.

I responded that he is 90 years old—leave him be to enjoy a smoke. Regardless of his age, personal choice is yours to make as long as it doesn’t negatively, realistically impact me or someone else.

My ‘friend’ who was concerned about smoking is typical of attitudes towards a legal product these days, and at times, you’d think every ill known to man can be traced to cigarettes. We can attribute that mobilization of bias to the federal campaign against smokers coupled with a hefty nonprofit sector benefiting from a great deal of funding to increase “education” about the effects of smoking.

The federal campaign of course had little to do with health concerns and everything to do with easy revenue as President Bill Clinton, inspired by the late Democrat senator Teddy Kennedy, might attest. Furthermore, trial lawyers like failed presidential hopeful John Edwards (D-N.C.) have also made out like bandits by filing lawsuits against an economic sector that kept many Southerners from starving after the Civil War.

I decided to look into healthcare costs and matters we seldom talk about. Here are a few.

1.    Statistics aren’t skewed to detract from the perils of smoking, but according to Live Science and other sites I found, “the lifetime risk that an individual (men and women combined) will develop lung cancer is 6.9 percent, or 1 in 13 people. This applies to all lung cancer, not just that attributable to smoking. The site said, “Surprisingly, fewer than 10 percent of lifelong smokers will get lung cancer. Fewer yet will contract…throat or mouth cancers.”

2.    Lung cancer isn’t just caused by smoking. Exposure to elements like radon, to materials like asbestos and even viruses can cause it. Most experts believe that smoking increases your chances of lung cancer, but my findings turned up no comparisons between people who only smoke and people who smoke in an environment exposing them to radon, asbestos or certain viruses.

3.    Despite the fact smokers fund children’s health insurance, and the revenue from taxing smokers is abundant, the federal government funds far less research on lung cancer than other cancers. Illness ascribed to smoking is one of the few that elicits disdain in medical professionals and no sympathy in “progressive” circles. Taxes on this product are almost exclusive compared to other substances and health habits where so-called “sin taxes” might apply.

4.    Government policy wonks often talk about conditions that drive up healthcare costs—obesity, lack of exercise, and eating habits. One major driver of healthcare costs is rarely publicly discussed in the context of spending—trauma. Yet spending to treat trauma disorders, according to the federal government, nearly doubled between 1996-2003. That doubling, said the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), raised trauma healthcare costs to a level comparable to that of heart disease. The number of Americans with medical expenditures for trauma care was just under 40 million in both 1996 and 2003. Much of that expense is presumably preventable by applying common sense and impulse control. Just imagine what one weekend in the crime-plagued city of Chicago costs the U.S. taxpayer for trauma care.

5.   A popular over the counter product is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the U.S.—acetaminophen.

6.    Treating HIV is very costly, whether it develops into full blown AIDS or not. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the “lifetime cost of treatment in today’s terms [is] more than half a million dollars.” That is partly because of a positive development—life expectancy for HIV patients has increased.

7.   There’s gradual interest in the link between heart attacks and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Your doctor, if you have high blood pressure, may chide you for smoking, but it is likely he will not ask whether you regularly use NSAIDs, available over the counter under a number of labels. He should.

In politicizing healthcare, government does us no favors. Sin taxes are lucrative for the federal spending leviathan, but there’re far more in the mix of self-inflicted ills than a cigarette.

I hope my veteran enjoys his occasional smoke. He earned it and the complex arranged a handicap-safe area for him to smoke in. None of this would be important enough to write about, however, if the government had not exceeded its powers and entered the business of healthcare, taxing us to the hilt on the pretext of wellbeing, but in reality, taxing us to the hilt simply so wealth could be redistributed to select corporate and nonprofit sectors.

Nanny only cares about your health when tax revenue is the goal. Recall Sec. of State Hillary Clinton's words to government officials in Pakistan: "We [the U.S.] tax everything that moves and doesn't move." She wasn't just blowing smoke.


Smoking’s many myths…

Lung cancer lags in research funding

AHRQ News and Numbers

12 Things You Should Know…at Harvard Health

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Sept. 26, 2013)

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