For most workers, at least twice a week, health insurance deductions are perhaps the largest piece cut off from our paycheck. According to the Milliman Medical Index, an average family of four pays approximately $10,000.00 in premiums and out of pocket expenses. Gone are the days when zero deductibles motivate even a healthy person to exhaust all standard checkups just so to avail of a regular benefit. Nowadays, it is almost a crime to get sick.
Health is wealth, so says a cliché. It does not necessarily mean the exhaustion of credit cards or checking accounts in relation to health club subscriptions and trips to “Whole Foods”. Health is wealth because age erodes our energy, work wears out vitality and stress destroys our sanity. And as time transpires without our full attention, we fall and fail in the frailty of our existence. We fritter away in trickles until dust destroys the last dredges of our flesh. Our physical presence then replaced by a tombstone and some eulogies.
Have you ever gone to a Doctor’s office, waited for more than an hour in a lounge, then saw a Physician Assistance or a Nurse Practitioner for less than 15 minutes, just to renew a prescription? I did. And I left that office with a feeling of being defrauded. I am aware that some of you are also nodding your heads while browsing on this article. Unfortunately, for some of us, this kind of inconvenience is inevitable. For others, the least expensive health insurance is not to get sick. Is it possible? Well, physical changes occur. Changes cause functional imbalance created by physiological adjustments. Physical adjustments may sometimes mean pain. Pain by itself can cause sickness or be sickness in itself. A sniffle, strain, a bad congestion, a momentary sprain: all these can escalate into a complex dysfunction, so bad that if not attended to could spell out a 911 call or a visit to the ER. No, I do not think that human morbidity allows us the absolute possibility of not getting sick. Sickness is a part of life. Nonetheless, we have the ability to manage the risks and the possible decadence of our human mortality.
The universe is enmeshed in signs. And our bodily experience passes through a variance of symptoms. Signs are visible, palpable and audible. Some of them have scents and even tastes. Symptoms are subjective, personal and individual. They are non- transferrable and unique experiences.
My headache is mine. Your itchiness will be yours. His muscle pain will be his. They are all symptoms. A bleeding forehead, a skin rash, or a swollen thigh are all signs. Symptoms are felt. Signs are seen. As there are occasions that some signs can pop out without feeling them, there are also symptoms that do not always come up with a visible signs. As such, going back to our own health management, paying attention to both signs and symptoms are critical components to the maintenance of good health and to our ability to avoid the Doctor’s office.
It is without doubt that healthy habits comprise the primary premise in not getting sick. Our ability to read our own signs and symptoms, to know what they are, and to know what to do comes next after those habits. And it all starts with a simple awareness of our own genetic lineage. For some strange reason, our tendency to acquire certain diseases, and our proclivity to cause our own sickness, is somewhat linked to our genes, our family histories and our home environment. We are who we are partly because of where we came from and how we came to be. We are all products of our grandparents’ rheumatoid arthritis, our mother’s malignant tumors and our father’s cerebrovascular accident. Our forefathers gave us the markers for psychosis, anxiety and dementia. And our children will inherit the genes that can cause them to have gout, goiter or ulcers. At the very end of the human race, the individual will still maintain an exclusive right to his or her own subjective experience of pain and sickness, symptoms that are defined by what we feel and how we feel them.
It is through this dismal and inevitable experience that we can learn how to manage the risks of illness, spend less time in the Doctor’s office and spare those deductibles for something else. When we are aware, we can do. And when we can do, we can learn. The next question is, are we willing to? And the counter question is, why not?
The cost of health insurance will not go down. The expenses of health maintenance will always be expensive. Healthy habits will be the antidote: eating, exercise, avoiding unhealthy vices, and stress management, to name a few. While the awareness of signs, symptoms and sickness will be the starting point. Be aware. Know what you feel and how you feel. Do some research, study a bit and then get help. It is a sad reality that our litigious consumeristic American society has brought about a myriad useless lab works and tests promoted by Physicians because of fear. Such fear is often brought about because of consumer ignorance, many with the misperception that it is the health care professional’s job to know exactly what is wrong about what they feel and how they started to feel that way. When we have pain, for instance, it does not help at all to say that something is painful. Go further. Explain where the exact site of the pain is. Narrate the kind of pain that you have: throbbing, radiating, burning or pulsating. When does it happen? Does it get worse when you wake up or does it diminish when the sun sets at the end of day? Does it disappear when you sleep or does it cause you not to sleep? Look at your signs. Although you may not have the training or the expertise of a health care professional, it is sometimes common sense to know the difference between a mole, a wart, a skin stain or a possible melanoma that looks so odd and that seems to have a life of its own.
So maybe it is not such a bad idea to maximize your co-pays, get the highest deductible, lower down your monthly health insurance premiums and receive a higher pay check, that is, if only you could commit to augment your awareness of your own signs, your own symptoms and your sickness. Attach this to healthy habits that bring a healthy lifestyle and you could probably reduce your prescription pills, spend less time drawing blood for a lab work, and go to the Doctor’s office less often. It all begins with self-awareness. A small step with a huge possible aftermath, something that has more benefits than anything else. This, you can surely try at home.