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This applies to US healthcare, where costs of health services are 10 times above what it should be.
 
Here's an unusual point of view and solution to fix the problem. This applies to individuals rather than healthcare providers:

  1. Set up, and stick to a budget of no more than $2,000 a year for official (AKA FDA approved) healthcare services
  2. Set up a $20,000 emergency fund for special healthcare expenses
  3. If you really want health insurance, get one with a very high deductible. If you don't, use religion exemptions: you can join our mathematogy "religion" (not really a religion indeed), which states that you should stay away from mismanaged, inefficient, analytic-poor system run by people with conflicts of interests
  4. Get treatments and/or drugs from Canada, India, Mexico (make your due diligence to identify good providers)
  5. Remember that you know your body better than your doctor does
  6. Improve your lifestyle: no more sugar, salt, fat, extra calories etc. But more exercise, hiking, reducing home temperature etc.
  7. The three P's: Prevention, Prevention, and Prevention
  8. Check alternate, non conventional solutions (herbs, acupuncture etc.)
  9. Manufacture your own drugs (antibiotics and many drugs are not too difficult to manufacture)
  10. Crowdsourcing: find out what other people post on the web about your ailment, and learn how to identify reliable information sources
  11. Refuse unecassary and expensive tests when visiting an hospital
  12. Think about conflicts of interests: your doctor will be better off if she keeps you sick
  13. The healthcare system in US is 10 times more expensive than it should be: are you addicted to it? Learn how to detoxify from the system
  14. The issue is not about expensive health insurance: it is about incredibly expensive healthcare: would you agree to pay a $10,000 yearly tax to drive on highways?
  15. Why should we finance the healthcare of smokers, drug addicts, sugar addicts, burger eaters, bad drivers, alcoholic etc.
  16. Would you rather pay $100,000 to live another 6 months in terrible pain in an hospital, or die earlier and give that money to your kids instead?
  17. Try abandoning your health insurance for 3 months: initially it might look scary (like when you stop smoking), but after a while, you'll feel financially much better and not stressed out. It is unbelievable what you could do with all the money saved (but keep saving money for your health care, and keep getting much more knowledgeable about your heath and how to fix problems)
  18. If you are a business owner, just think of how much better you could be without subscribing to a rotten healthcare system
  19. You still need to take care of your health: learn about how to diagnose yourself, find alternate medical solutions, and learn how to cure yourself
  20. The healthcare system was working perfectly between 1910 and 1970: it does not mean it will work perfectly well for everybody for ever: its efficiency went down more than 60% between 1960 and 2010.
  21. What about this idea for a new clinical trial: two cohorts over a 30 years time period. (a) Test group: people who refuse to spend more than $2,000/year (or more than $20,000 per year in any 5-year time period) (b) Control group. Test of Hypothesis: either test group has same life expectancy as control group,  or test group has very slightly lower life expectancy but better quality of life and better financial outcome for kids   

Case studies:

  • My wife awoke one day with a strong heart pain, went to the ER, spent one hour; hospital found nothing wrong, charged $5,000 - $4,000 was paid by her health insurance and we paid $1,000 to the hospital (they claimed they never received the payment)
  • My wife was very sick in Philadelphia - I flew her back home and tried to get an appointment with a doctor ASAP - the clinic said the appointment I was trying to get was ILLEGAL (contact me for details in case you think I am making this up)
  • I had an accident where all my friends thought I had a broken foot and I should go to the hospital - I did nothing, was in serious pain for a couple of days, but after 3 weeks everything was back to normal: total cost $0
  • I had an eye condition that I can best describe as "blindness in one eye when sleeping" (you awake in the middle of the night and you are blind in one eye for one very scary 60 seconds). Symptoms look like a mini-stroke and it says that you should see a doctor urgently - yet I got this a few times and based on my analytic judgment, I believe it is a non-threatening pressure issue in the eye with a quick fix that cost nothing (sleeping in a different position)
  • Only one out of 20 of my family members (parents, grand parents, etc.) benefited from expensive healthcare services - all others died between 69 and 78 years old and either never went to an hospital, or spent a few months at considerable expenses with no benefit to anybody except the hospital
  • Look around you: how many of your family members of friends truly benefited from US healthcare in the last 4 years, vs. those who lost tons of money for nothing

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Comment by Reginald ezeh on January 8, 2013 at 11:49am

I have had medical, dental and vision insurance every year for 5 years now. I have been to the doctor 4 times in those 5 years ---- for yearly checkups only; nothing else. You be the judge !!!

Comment by Diane Smolarek-Frazier on November 29, 2012 at 10:08am

Agree with most everything in this article.   I have practiced alternative healthcare for years and have been my healthiest. There is a place for traditional health care but not for every "illness".   I would also add

1 -CHOOSE to be a happy person, there are health benefits.  

2 -Most traditional therapies are based on information delivered by the Pharma industry and they have more to gain than the medical professionals. 

3 -Our ever increasing litigious society has created the need for physicians to order every test possible just to prevent being sued for malpractice!   The cost of doing business as a physician is driving many docs to stop doing procedures or to leave their practice AND it is one of the reasons for rising health care costs.

As a person who loves numbers and data I never thought of health care this way.  Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Usman Qazi on November 26, 2012 at 4:04pm

I'd advocate political activism instead of hiding in one's tent.

For example, it is completely unacceptable that surgeons could even think of lobbying to take down an entire government agency to protect their own cash-cow procedures (unnecessary spinal surgeries in this instance http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2007/0710.brownlee.html).

The agency in question (ahrq.gov) was set up precisely to do what we're discussing in this thread.

Comment by Vincent Granville on November 21, 2012 at 11:39am

Hi Gary - the issue is at the macro-economic level: it's about the huge toll that healthcare exacts on the US economy. When your father was treated, healthcare costs were much, much lower: they've spiraled out of control much faster than inflation, to the point that it is now a bubble about to burst. 

But what makes you believe that people who spend as little as possible (or to put it differently, spend very smartly) on official healthcare die right away or even sooner than those who don't. Dentists have forecasted back in 2000 (the last time I visited a dentist) that in 2005 I would have no teeth left. Today, I still have all the teeth that I had in 2000. Does it mean that I gambled, doing nothing but betting on the fact that dentist predictions were wrong? No, I did take care of my teeth my own way, at a cost of about $100/year. 

Comment by Gary Parks on November 20, 2012 at 5:18pm
My father beat cancer through traditional chemotherapy in his 50'hes. He is now 71. In his 60's he had a heart problem that resulted in 4 hours of surgery and a pace maker. Both times he would have died your way. Instead he helped me do a brake job on my car last weekend.
Comment by Bharat S. on November 20, 2012 at 1:30pm

John Ogden - You have allowed your preconceived ideas cloud your ability to be an objective scientist.   There have been numerous studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture.  Since you requested one, here you go:  http://www.umm.edu/news/releases/acupuncture.htm

A simple google search will bring up many studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture.  However, even if there had been no studies showing its effectiveness, that does not mean that it can't be effective.  That's an error in logic.  The role of a data scientist, or any other type of scientist for that matter, is to listen to the data and to leave your preconceived ideas behind.

Comment by Vincent Granville on November 19, 2012 at 12:39pm

John: this is not a joke unfortunately. Compare the cost of healthcare in Sweden vs. US. Herb, water, prevention, good diet, getting drugs from abroad and acupuncture don't work better than Obamacare (maybe with good diligence and some research and hard work they do indeed - but let's pretend they don't), yet it's 10 times cheaper. So even if it is slightly worse than Obamacare, from a financial point of view it is far better.

Would you want to burn $100K to fight a terminal cancer for another 6 months, or die earlier get that money go to your kids to pay for University (or maybe get it treated in India for a fraction of the cost)?

Also, if you don't believe that the Obamacare treatment you get will work, it won't. If you believe that it will work, then (on average) it really will (even if drugs are replaced by placebos). 

Comment by John Ogden on November 19, 2012 at 12:24pm

I hope this is a joke.  You claim to be a data scientist and yet you advocate herbs and acupuncture?  Can anyone show a solid, reputable study that supports effectiveness of this stuff?  And by all means, buy your drugs from veterinarian grade suppliers in Mexico.  Or hey, make your own drugs.  We all know organic chemistry is straight forward, and reactions always follow a single pathway.  No need for any quality control or tests for purity.  Just make sure the drug resistant bacteria you breed stays in your body, OK?  And place reliance on Crowdsourcing?  Call me crazy, but in technical matters, I put more reliance in one informed expert opinion than the unwashed masses.  Just when I had started to think you might be a good source…

Comment by Drake Pruitt on November 19, 2012 at 12:00pm

Vincent, surprised that "Have your genome sequenced" isn't on the list of data-driven alternatives. Knowing your risk factors for certain conditions would be hugely beneficial for wellness management.

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