About one-sixth of California's general fund is spent on Medi-Cal coverage. A federal report issued last Thursday projected that public spending on healthcare would outstrip individual spending in just two years. On top of this, the state will witness the largest private individual insurance premium increase in its history as Anthem Blue Cross plans dramatic rate hikes this Spring. These are all indicators of an underlying problem, a sharp rise in treatment costs. The exorbitant price of pharmaceutical drugs and surgical procedures is mostly to blame for this trend. That is why state funding for studies on alternative treatments could open a market to provide vastly cheaper care for millions with preexisting conditions who can't afford the more dangerous chemical therapies pushed by the Pharmaceutical-Industrial Complex.
More public funds were spent on “healthcare” last year than ever before. We aren't as a culture, however, seeing a return on this investment. There is now evidence to suggest that the West is experiencing an overall decrease in the health of its citizens. Children today are less fit, more obese, and more likely to fall victim to a variety of degenerative diseases. Mine is the first generation that is predicted to have a shorter lifespan than its predecessor's. Moreover, based on statistical evidence cited in a 2003 paper, “Death by Medicine,” researchers claim “the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States.” The report indicates that iatrogenic fatalities now outpace heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of preventable death in the country. These are not symptoms of a malfunctioning healthcare system; they are signs that health is not the aim in what can be called a sickcare industry.
Opponents of what has come to be called “alternative medicine” point to a lack of empirical data supporting its efficacy in treating FDA designated diseases. This is a major talking point for mainstream medicine but as Tony Isaacs of Natural News points out:
Drug companies are by far the largest source of funding for medical studies and the cost of such studies is a huge barrier for natural alternatives. The FDA trial process costs hundreds of millions of dollars, and no one can afford to get a natural item approved that they cannot control. Whole herbs and extracts of herbs that contain multiple compounds found in nature cannot be patented.
California can break the of FDA/Big Pharma monopoly on the prescription drug market and work to get naturally grown remedies approved for medicinal use. In this way, costs will come down as competition mounts to produce the best quality treatments. Why not offer state funds to investigate the curative claims of plant and mineral compounds with the FDA? Better yet, the state could establish its own regulatory agency to study natural remedies at a fraction of the cost. Independent research on the effectiveness of vitamins, minerals and plant based medicine is too well documented to ignore the potential for reducing healthcare costs. Isaacs has a point when he states, “...as long as the FDA and FTC continue their campaigns of censorship against nutritional cures and natural remedies, we will always have a health care crisis. You know why? Because no nation in the world can afford to foot the bill for a country full of sick people.”
No matter how many drugs we create, illness will always abound if the role of proper diet and regular exercise in preventing disease is not universally appreciated. The production of food locally and organically through community gardens addresses both issues by offering the opportunity of therapeutic physical labor and the training necessary to grow a perfectly balanced diet anywhere workable land is available. Those who can't garden can still benefit if California were to get serious about supporting local food distribution networks so all households can be weened off of processed diets. Start up grants for Community Supported Agriculture networks and farmers markets can do just that.
The importance of a local food economy to the healthcare of its participants can not be underestimated and the costs to taxpayers will be more than offset by reduced medical expenditures for the state in years to come. I have written more extensively on the social and economic benefits of municipal urban gardening in a previous article.
With all the debate over rising healthcare costs and single-payer plans, has anyone stopped to ask the simple question: why do we even need health insurance? The sedentary and synthetic ways of living born from the industrialization of agriculture have yielded their fruit. True healthcare reform will take a social revolution on an individual scale. Personal accountability and individual responsibility for one's own health is ultimately required to stop this upward trend in medical costs.