The Cost of Healthcare

The debate over healthcare costs is obviously a national discussion at this point.  But what about your personal healthcare costs: the costs associated with keeping you and your family healthy?  I’m not talking about tissues you buy when you get sick or how much you pay out of pocket for your contacts.  I’m looking more at the big picture.  We’re so concerned with the topic of healthcare costs, but what is that truly addressing?

This is in no way meant to be a political post.  There are a lot of costs associated with healthcare that typically are overshadowed by the costs of drugs, surgery, or visits to a medical doctor.  Just because your HSA doesn’t pay for it, doesn’t mean that something is not a contributing factor to your overall health.  (Granted, tax-free money to spend on locally grown produce at the Farmers Market would be absolutely wonderful, but for now, we’ll just have to agree to disagree with your health plan.)

I’ll use myself as an example, because I know the most about me.  My husband and I are pretty frugal.  I’d like to think I inherited my thrifty spending habits from my father (although admittedly none of those lessons really kicked in until I was paying my own bills).  My husband’s never been much of a spendthrift.  We rarely buy things unless we absolutely need them; but there are certain things that are crucial to spend money on, and we recognize that.

Here is our list of things that are worth a little bit of extra money:

1. FOOD

We eat a very clean diet.  Our food bill is one of the highest bills of the month.  But it’s worth it.  If we ever eat outside of our Paleo norm, we feel crappy.  I know, it’s melodramatic, but we honestly do.  Foods can make you feel great in addition to supplying your body with its necessary nutrients.  Foods can also have incredibly negative side effects, from obesity to decreased mental acuity.  A study from late last year demonstrated cognitive impairment in elderly individuals who ate processed foods rather than whole foods (1).  I like thinking clearly, so I’ll stick with whole foods.  That’s worth the cost.

2. Fitness

Whether we’re training for a triathlon or working out at CrossFit Sua Sponte, we’ve always put money into working out.  Yes, it’s possible to work out without a gym membership, or even weights.  In my oh-so-humble opinion, that gets kind of boring.  I like challenging myself with others, so CrossFit is a pretty good fit for us.  We feel incredible when we’re physically active, not to mention the numerous positive health side effects of exercise, so maintaining a membership (and using it 5x/week) is definitely worth the cost.

3. Preventative care

Yes, this is a little skewed in our personal banking, but just because I’m a chiropractor doesn’t mean we don’t spend money on preventative healthcare.  I see Molly Hall, DC, and Meaghan Dishman, ND, LAc, MSOM.  I take care of my body as much as I can with food and fitness, but I need others to help me along the way.  You know what’s cheaper than surgery after an injury?  Seeing a chiropractor (2).  The benefit of preventing injuries by taking care of my body and therefore not being sidelined for weeks at a time or having to undergo surgery?  That’s absolutely worth the cost.

Do any of those costs really get addressed when talking about healthcare?  Not really.  Even on the family level, that discussion typically circles around visits to the doctor, prescription medications, and insurance benefits.  But when talking budget, it’s crucial that we recognize that being healthy is very different from just not being sick.  And it’s imperative to recognize that how you fuel your body determines how much it costs to run.  I’m going to skip the obvious car analogy here and go with the even more obvious input=output.  Put good things into your body: the cost is worth the benefit.  Taking care of your body is associated with decreased overall healthcare costs anyways.  It’s cheaper to pay for good food, fitness, and preventative healthcare than it is to endure chronic lifestyle diseases!

Dr. Lindsay Mumma – lindsaymumma@gmail.com – is a chiropractor at Triangle Chiropractic and Rehabilitation Center in Raleigh, NC.  Her clinic focuses on offering multiple manual therapy options for pain management and functional improvement.  For more information, please visit www.triangleCRC.com .

1. Torres, et. al. “Dietary patterns are associated with cognition among older people with mild cognitive impairment.” Nutrients. 2012 Oct 25;4(11): 1542-51.
2. Keeney, et. al.  “Early predictors of lumbar spine surgery after occupational back injury: results from a prospective study of workers in Washington state.” Spine. 2012 Dec 12. Epub.

Image by Dave Granlund, acquired from www.davegranlund.com

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