The Cost of Negative Heatlth Behaviors

This is not a full article, as it was merely a discussion topic response in my health class, but it is particularly relevant at the moment. So I am posting it tonight.

As previously stated, the CDC, NDIC, HCUP cumulatively estimate healthcare costs linked with negative health behaviors to be nearly 6 billion annually. While this number is inarguably shocking, the host of chronic illnesses linked to these behaviors makes it becomes easy to accept when one begins to research the prices for associated medications and treatments.


According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), division of the National Institute of Health (NIH), heavy drinkers have a greater risk of liver disease, heart disease, sleep disorders, depression, stroke, bleeding from the stomach, sexually transmitted infections from unsafe sex, and several types of cancer. They may have problems managing diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions” (NIAAA). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that tobacco usage causes lung diseases such as emphysema, lung cancer, bronchitis, and chronic airway obstruction. Smoking also causes coronary heart disease, stroke, and abdominal aortic aneurysm wherein the aorta is enlarged or compromised at the point where it runs through the abdomen (CDC). Obesity is linked with high cholesterol and triglycerides, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, stroke, cancer (including cancer of the uterus, cervix, ovaries, breast, colon, rectum and prostate), sleep apnea, depression, gallbladder disease, gynecologic problems, erectile dysfunction and sexual health issues, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, osteoarthritis and skin problems.

With each of these primarily avoidable illnesses comes a built in expense for exams medications, and surgery. More specifically: breathing machines for sleep apnea, testing supplies for diabetes along with the potential need for prosthetic replacements for amputated limbs; oxygen machines/tanks, nebulizers, canulas, and inhalers for lung diseases; chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery for cancer; physical therapy, wheel chairs, hospital beds and in home care after a stroke, heart attack, or cancer.

While varying widely in expense, none of these items is inexpensive and are often not covered even when the patient has medical insurance. Even when they have insurance, it is likely an HMO, which is the most popular choice in the United States. In the event that the HMO does cover the items, we then have to question the fairness such coverage when these organizations typically charge premiums based upon age and those who have avoided negative health behaviors will pay the same amount as those in their age group who have indulged. HMOs operate for profit, most of which comes from many who pay for it and never, or rarely, use it. The more the insurance is utilized for treatment and the greater the number of subscribers seeking treatment, the higher the premiums must be in order for the organization to continue making profit. Should people making healthy choices, in effect, pay for the unhealthy choices of others? I do not believe they should. Regardless of difficulty, whether or not to engage in unhealthy behavior is a choice. Many people make healthy choices despite the overwhelming complexities involved.


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