How We Can Eat Our Way Out of the Deficit

Until we change the way we eat, getting health care costs and the deficit under control will be a losing struggle.

Surging Health Care Costs Come Right Out of Your Pocket

The health care costs draining your personal budget come in two pieces: the amount you see directly as health care, and the hidden costs embedded in taxes, salary you don’t get, and the cost of virtually everything you buy. Health care costs gobble one out of every six dollars of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), with that percentage rising every year. Even Warren Buffett, the wealthy business man, called health care costs a “tapeworm” dragging down the economy.

The direct costs are obvious. Milliman, a leading actuarial firm, reported that health care for a family of four in 2010 in the U.S. averaged a staggering $18,074. Of this, employers paid an average $10,744 while employees footed the remaining $4,375 toward insurance and $3,005 in out-of-pocket costs directly to medical providers. So if your family is typical, you paid $7,330 toward health care in 2010.

But wait. How about the $10,744 your employer spent? Theoretically at least, that’s another nice chunk of salary you could have been paid if your employer did not have to use it for health care. And it gets worse. Because every time you buy just about anything, part of the cost built in is to cover the cost of health care premiums that the organization providing the product or service had to spend for their employees. Then, of course, there are taxes for public health care programs.

In these budget-conscious times, who would not miss this huge an expenditure? The family and individual costs are mirrored on a

Now is the time to come together with love, compassion, and determination.

national level in skyrocketing deficits due, in large part, to mounting health care costs.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forcefully summarizes the dilemma in their January 2011 report. The CBO calls the fiscal outlook “daunting” and notes: “If revenues stay close to their average share of GDP for the past 40 years, that rise in spending will lead to rapidly growing budget deficits and surging federal debt. To prevent debt from becoming unsupportable, policymakers will have to substantially restrain the growth of spending, raise revenues significantly above their historical share of GDP, or pursue some combination of those two approaches.”

There is one strategy no one in power nationally has suggested. Better eating. More specifically, a whole foods, plant-based diet. How could this help? To begin with, consider these CBO figures. 2011 costs for Medicare and Medicaid combined will be $846 billion. These two programs alone account for 57% of the deficit. Their costs dwarf the $663 billion for nondefense discretionary spending, which some are looking to slash.

So why are health care costs so high, continuing to mount at a rate several times inflation? While there is no simple answer, the bottom line is that Americans are getting sicker, living slightly longer but with more chronic illness. High tech medicine and expensive prescription drugs dictate the cost of treating these ongoing conditions. In fact, 70% of health care costs are for treating chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, depression, and autoimmune conditions.

Denying care to sick people is not the answer. Getting sick people well and preventing healthy people from developing chronic illness, on the other hand, are win-wins.

Excellent research shows a whole foods, plant-based diet can prevent a huge percentage of chronic illness, and in many cases can even reverse existing disease. Books that clearly explain this link include The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, and Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, by Dr. Neal Barnard.

With these books in mind, consider the financial costs of just heart disease and diabetes. According to the American Heart

A very expensive and usually ineffective response to chronic illness.

Association, cardiovascular disease and stroke will cost the United States $503.2 billion in 2010. Note this amount alone, if these conditions were prevented, is enough in itself to cover about a third of the deficit. An employee with acute coronary syndrome costs about $40,000 more than other workers.

The rising incidence of diabetes is even more alarming. A study by United HealthCare, a large insurance company, projects that by 2050, between 20% to 33% of American adults will be diabetic. Just between 2010 and 2020, the costs to treat diabetes in the U.S. will total $3.35 trillion. In 2020, diabetes will account for 10% of health care costs – half a trillion dollars in that year alone.

The monetary outlay is only a small part of the human cost.

If the costs of treating the diseases they cause were added into animal foods and processed foods, no one could afford to buy them. This financial aspect does not even take the devastating emotional impact of a sick family member or friend into account, the years of pain and

A much better choice than overpriced pills to treat most chronic illness.

lost life for the sufferer, the spouses left alone and the children without a parent.

People with chronic illness need love and compassion. Most have been directed to eat the very foods that are at the root of their problems. Nutritional misinformation abounds, including in the medical profession. There is an answer that does not entail slashing education or deteriorating infrastructure. We can give people the information and practical steps they need to achieve profound health and beat these costs that threaten to bankrupt the nation.

Intrigued? Now you can use our Whole Foods Blog Finder to target informative, fun postings on plant-based nutrition. Quick information at no cost!

Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet, the smart person’s nutrition book built on sustainable food choices. Enjoy six kinds of whole foods for permanent, hunger-free weight loss and health.

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2 Responses to “How We Can Eat Our Way Out of the Deficit”

  1. Staci says:

    I really think you need to rethink your wording here. It comes across as very ableist. It sounds as though you are trying to say that diet causes all chronic illness, which obviously isn’t true. It also sounds exactly like some kind of neo-con argument regarding healthy people having to foot the bill for us sickies.

    Obviously there are some diseases which can be reversed with a vegan diet. But there are a whole host more that cannot be. I have Crohn’s Disease. My vegan diet is not going to cure me, nor will it cure my friends with ulcerative colitis, fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis. Veganism is about compassion. Please rethink this piece and try to show some to those of us suffering from incurable, chronic illnesses.

  2. admin says:

    Hi, so sorry that you got this impression. That is not the intent of the piece at all. While some diseases can be impacted by diet, others cannot. Caring for sick people has to be a top priority for our country. Let’s prevent the illness we can and give top-flight care to anyone suffering.

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