Trading Places

Inside views on the jobs market

Economic crisis melts away the pounds

May 6, 2009

This is part of a series of personal accounts about how people are surviving the recession. The writers are contributors to Associated Content.

By Cheryl Williams

I never thought the economic crisis would affect me. I’ve never had a lot of money anyway. My home is paid for. I paid off my debts a couple of years ago. I have no IRA account. I figured my life would go on as it always had despite the worsening state of the economy.

I was wrong.

Bit by bit, the economy’s woes crept into my life.

First, my 24-year-old daughter moved back home with her dad and me when she was laid off from her job. I converted my office back into a bedroom for her, which meant my work hours were compromised. I thought her stay would be short-lived, but the job market in Charlotte, N.C., is not good right now.

Goodwill and The Dollar Tree stores are now where I shop. If I need something, I check at these places first before going elsewhere. I bought a new sweater from Goodwill for $3. The Belk department store tag originally listed it for $60. Once-expensive handbags can be found at Goodwill for $2. I buy my health and beauty products and cleaning supplies at Dollar Tree.

And the downturn has affected my health. Neither my husband nor I is able to afford the health insurance plans our employers offer. It would cost more than half of our paychecks to purchase company insurance. We have tried purchasing health insurance through private companies, but they will not cover my husband because he has Type II diabetes. The cost to cover me is the cost of a mortgage payment because I am 60 pounds overweight. Health insurance is not an option.

But we’re not defeated. We’re now living healthier lives. There are no more YMCA gym memberships, but I can just as easily walk in my neighborhood as I could around a walking track. I lift weights at home just as easily as I could in a gym. It takes more self-discipline, but I know the end result is worth it.

Grocery shopping has changed, too. I always make a list before shopping, and I always stick to it. I never shop while hungry. I never realized how much money I was spending on junk food, convenience foods and impulse buying.

Since making these simple changes, I have lost 40 pounds and two sizes, resulting in many of my clothes being too large for me.

The economic crisis has forced us to get creative. As a result, I am healthier, and so is my family.


It’s an outrage that people who need it most still can’t get affordable health insurance, a national health insurance plan for every American should be on top of the presidents priority list.


Hi Cheryl,
in Italy we have a proverb which can be translated as “not all the bad (things) comes to hurt…”, meaning that something that looks negative at first sight, is probably gonna do no hurt, or even something good.
In your case, I believe that loosing weight will greatly improve your lifestyle (and life expectancy) over the next year, so give that this is a side-effect of the financial crisis, is alone to be taken as a good thing.
From the point of view of Dollar Tree, I guess that this crisis is the best thing that could happen to them! :-)

Posted by Andreas | Report as abusive

National Health Insurance should be optional, and only paid for by taxes taken from those that want it.

Posted by BAM | Report as abusive

I read somewhere that in Cuba, after the collapse of the Soviet Union cut off the country’s supply of petroleum products, almost everyone in the country lost weight, and the Cuban economy became more self-sufficient and sustainable. While many react negatively to Cuba, and would not consider the country to be a good example of anything, I believe the transition away from the use of petroleum is worthy of further study.


It is inspiring to hear the inspiration and creativity in these hard times. However I am sure we shall pull through and hope that we could all keep the lessons we have learned in mind. I also hope that a realistic, inclusive health plan may exist in future for Americans. It is a great relief to have this in Great Britain.

Posted by aNTHONY83 | Report as abusive

So strange that even after a hard hitting documentary like SICKO (Michael Moore); American still can’t get decent health insurance. Election after election, only mere rhetorics on health insurance. Ground reality, the sick continue to suffer and die in abject misery in the most powerful nation of the world.

Posted by arnold | Report as abusive

Good for her.Instead of pointing fingers towards the “system” she is making changes in her life.She will feel much better physically and mentally after she has shed the pounds.
If we want to make our lives better ,we have to do our part.I am for (limited) health insurance coverage paid by the employer (50%) and employee(50%).Everyone has to be able to have health insurance.I also believe we need to get of our seat and start excercising so we ,not only feel healthy ,but it also will put less stress on the health system.We can not just wait for the government to take over, That’s a dangerous situation.Don’t forget,government is run by people.Depending on them too much ,could lead to us losing our freedoms.


Shameful for a country that claims to be heads and shoulders above the rest, to have one of the worst protection for the common US People, which actually are the backbone of US…

Posted by Portuguese | Report as abusive

It is incredible to realise how the financial crises has the same type of effect all over the world. I am a 26 year old, who also recently made the move back home. The job crises forced me to fight back and become self employed – which also failed numerous times because people just can’t afford much. But slowly but surely things are falling into place. We as humans are “built” for survival and we will always find a way. I am glad that there are positives coming out of it all for you. I believe that sometimes that is all we need…A little gap created by a little miracle…To let in the floodgates.With love from Africa

Posted by bottomofafrica | Report as abusive

Although it could be quite expensive for the country, it would be best to use some of the money put aside for boosting the economy into providing a national health service. It could kill two birds with one stone as then voters would have more spare money to spend that would further improve the economic crisis.

Posted by Owen Cattigan | Report as abusive

What I fail to understand is how one classifies our health care as unaffordable.

So in most of europe health care is “free” but:

A) Your income tax rate is near 50%
B) Sales tax (VAT) is near 20% in most countries
C) Standard fresh foods and goods cost approximately 30-40% more than in the US
D) Base incomes are substantially lower on average

I don’t understand how you can call that affordable. The amount of taxes, the difference in prices of goods, and the difference in incomes more than makes up for the “free” health care. People here need to realize that health insurance is just as important and food, water, or gas for their car and save for it.

Posted by Bryan | Report as abusive

Hope more people follow your steps in positively facing this crisis! congrats for the 40 pds!

Posted by blazesof | Report as abusive

Why should everyone else have to subsidize the medical care of their neighbors? This is why medical costs are outrageous.

The socialist healthcare experiment has led to worse healthcare in Europe and Canada. If their citizens want the latest (best) drugs or treatments – they come here. Where will everyone go if we copy this failed system?

Think about it this way – if you cannot afford your own healthcare, what makes you think that the government can? The money comes from somebody. Maybe you think you deserve everyone else’s money, but they may not be able to afford their healthcare if they have to pay for yours.

Posted by Geno - USA | Report as abusive

So if something happens to you and your are uninsured, I am suppose to feel sorry. You are risking your long-term financial well being. The fact you choose to not by health insurance is your decision and the costs should not be thrusted upon to the rest of society.

Dictator Obama’s H.O.P.E. (Helping Other’s Pay Everything)

Posted by Scott | Report as abusive

The existing multi-payer health insurance industry needs to be discarded. Our national problem is universal access to health care. Our present plan, providing varying levels of federal and state reimbursements for people to purchase private insurance is very inefficient. Private practices need fulltime staff solely to interface with insurance companies. Hospital billing is overly complex; for example an uninsured person’s bill might be twice or four times as expensive as someone with full insurance coverage because the insurance companies have pre-negotiated the best rates. The people with no insurance receive unfairly high bills that are most likely impossible for them to pay.

Posted by Craig | Report as abusive

Congrats on losing weight…it is a struggle for everyone. Now you can be proud of both your frugality and new figure.
I don’t know how this became a comment on national healthcare when she is proud of her new health.
National healthcare is available in many countries but nowhere is it perfected. Many people in the UK have private insurance since the public one stinks. Cubans have it but are nearly killing themselves to live in the US.
Just as communism and socialism sound awesome, national healthcare doesn’t work in practice. People are greedy…whether they be doctors, pharmaceutical companies, MRI techs, scammer patients. Try negotiating a hospital bill sometime and see the “real” costs at the end!

Posted by Erica | Report as abusive

“A) Your income tax rate is near 50%
B) Sales tax (VAT) is near 20% in most countries
C) Standard fresh foods and goods cost approximately 30-40% more than in the US
D) Base incomes are substantially lower on average”

99% of all statistics posted on the net are made up. Ive lived in Japan and not only were my taxes lower, but my income was higher! I enjoyed free healthcare too.

If we spent our tax money on healthcare and education, instead of on fighter jets plans, that the Chinese steal from hacking the pentagon, our taxes wouldnt be as high.

Posted by Rob Nonsense | Report as abusive

You weaklings. Recession=normal. Correlates with the ebb and flow with the economy. So what it’s the worst recession since the 80s. Really the only actual recession in the last 25 years. 1992, 2001, and 2002-2003 were marginal; barely felt nor remebered(sp). Even now at 8.9 percent, our unemployment is only 1.5 points higher than the norm in europe! I wish more than anything I had 10k -20k to invest. In the stock market, its unbelivable how low it is right now. a near 50 percent decline from it’s apex in july. Anyways basic economics will inform you that, if you were to invest now, you could easily make an exoribant amount of money a year or 2 now investing in any of the paramont,well-established rich companies of our country. Unless you believe in the collapse of america.
Anyways the point is you’re all weak. I’m 21 and extremely poor. I was homeless 2 months ago for the first time. No support, no saftey nets, no parents. Yet in 2 weeks, I went from living on the streets to an apartment. Partly due to luck and more so to dilligence. Through hard-work and persuasion I gained 2 jobs in 2 weeks, worked over 60 hours a week and got myself out.
I’m still very poor, I live off 25-30 dollars a week. thats a 15 bucks a week for food and 10 dollars for gas. plus a soda here and there. Yet I am not crying nor complaining. Because for one thing I have a rational mind and secondly we peserve(sp). As americans its often said the reason our economy is so roboust, so strong, so rich. Is because of our optimstic attidue, because of our innovation. So stop crying and let this kid without even a high school degree serve as your inspiration. In 2 short weeks I escaped from homelessness, where most wallow in it for months and even longer. And in times of indigence, I save, I plan and I endure. Do the same, apply intellect to gain a job or a better job or 2 jobs or to start a business or invest. Do something, because complaining is counter-productive.

Posted by aol | Report as abusive

A society has certain obligations, chief among them being the health of its members. The US, despite all the wonderful opportunities afforded its citizens, falls short in the area of health care. There is too much reliance on an employer based system, especially now that so many are out of work and unable to afford COBRA or individual insurance plans. Worse, many will never again become ‘workers’ per se, opting instead, whether out of choice or desperation, to start their own small business or perhaps enter the exciting but challenging world of the freelancer. Time will show that this trend is only going to exacerbate the worsening health care situation as more families find themselves forced to go without.

In time, as the under-insured and uninsured become sick despite the laudable efforts of many to live healthier lives, society will find itself unable to avoid digging into its pockets to pick up the costs, many of which might have been avoided by taking a more preventative approach to health care.

The US absolutely needs a universal health care option, something that guarantees the availability of an affordable health plan to those who either do not qualify for individual coverage due to things like preexisting health conditions, or those who simply can not afford to purchase health insurance in the private insurance marketplace.

One thing is for certain. Society will pay the costs incurred as a result of neglecting the health of its citizens. There is no avoiding it. It’s just a matter of ‘how much?’ and ‘when?’.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

Nikkei225 didn’t read the article! The people who ~need~ it most, need exactly what happened to Cheryl Williams. They need to stop living convienence life styles and start seeing their condition as a result of actions they have taken. (Not the Economy.. I mean health.) Even Diabetes responds strongly to cleansing and good diet. If it takes a depression to make the US wean themselves off of fast food, grease and fat…so be it. Hah… even our gas use will reduce if the entire nation lost weight.. now that’s funny.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

Power equates to wealth. Being a wealthy nation does not mean we are a healthy nation. Values have become distorted and skewed by greed and selfishness to accumulating wealth, money, power and prestige at the cost of integrity, and the willingness to step on, crush and write off anyone who “gets in the way” of the accumulation of individual personal wealth. Capitalism “run amuck” has dire consequences. Yet it is in hard times Americans have been forced to re-evaluate and refocus on the values that equate to a continuation of life, family ,community and nation. Wellness and quality of life issues produce a new reality check and everyone will have a chance to look into the mirror of their own soul! What we see may cause us to begin to actually show signs that we do care about more than our individual selves and care about others a well. What we don’t see may cause us to continue the plunge into oblivion. How we as a nation care for those who are least able to care for themselves, the children, the elerly, those persons with mental and physical deficites will determine whether we rise as a nation powerful because we value that we are human beings and appreciate what each person brings to the table or we will fall in the historical quagmire of nations who offered human sacrifices. We do have a choice to live but not at any cost or die but not because of indifference. Congratulations Cheryl on your new beginning I hope you continue to appreciate who you are and who you are becoming. Life’s not just about what happens to you…its about how you respond to whatever happens and you are rising to the occasions of adversity like the champion you are! Keep up the good work… it’s encouraging and inspiring!

Posted by Cyndi | Report as abusive

After reading some of the comments i cannot help but feel sad for the people in the US.

Some talk about failure of the European experiment, what a bunch of crap! In the US, there are millions and i repeat MILLIONS that walk around without insurance, hundreds of thousands die because they cannot afford it, or simply like this person on the blog, who have some illness and no insurance company wants them…so thats the idea of a succesful health care?

I come from Europe, we pay our selves for part of our insurance and the other part is subsidized, offcourse this subsidy is taken from our salaries every month.
BUT I KNOW, that if i have an accident, lose my job or any other circumstance, i can go to the big pot we all contribute to and benefit from it, like my neighbour, my boss, my far away family, or my friends’s friends.

That makes us (nations in Europe) have the best health care in the world (proved)

What some of you Americans need (especially those blogging such comments) is to set aside your individualism and egoism and start thinking as a whole, not only in yourselves, it is really a shame that millions of american people roam around without any kind of insurance in the wealthiest nation on earth (at least it was)


Posted by Miguel | Report as abusive

This is a great article. So nice to hear about someone taking initiative and making the best out of a tough situation. Don’t wait for the government to help you. The best health insurance is simply being healthy. Congrats to you and I hope you come out of this a healthier and happier person.

Posted by JC | Report as abusive

As an American I’m mystified by my fellow citizens who feel the U.S. healthcare situation is A-OK. Squander TRILLIONS of dollars on an unnecessary war? No problem. Provide basic, universal healthcare? Forget it Jack, that’s commie talk. Many of us can’t afford health insurance — of any kind. And that’s not our fault.

Posted by Nicholas | Report as abusive

Universal health care doesn’t work as shown in other countries. Increased regulation and oversight is key here. When we make laws that further protect the patients we can avoid many if not most of the reasons people put up as reasons why we need to jump to the extreme of socialized health care.

Posted by Jan | Report as abusive

re: health care – when you put health care in the capitalist market, what you get is the same as other industries in the cap market – everything is driven by drive to increase profit (shareholders require this for increase in stock value). How do you do that? By increasing consumption boosted by marketing. So our health regime is driven by companies looking for sick people. More sick people = more profit. Fast foods are good in this scenario because they create sick people. To break this cycle, must remove health care from capitalist market system. It really is that simple.

Posted by Marxist? | Report as abusive

Great Article. The fact of the matter is that this down turn should be a wake up call for all of us. Do we really need that extra sweater from the GAP? Do we need to go out to a restaurant on Saturday night in order to get together with friends. The fact is that even after the economy regains its footing (and it will at some point)we need to ask ourselves some basic questions.

Does consuming lots of ‘stuff’ make us happy? I can tell you that unless you have a strong sense of self worth, close relationships with others, your health and live with a sense of purpose the ‘stuff’ will not make you happy.

We should all use these difficult times to assess our long term values and goals and to keep whats really important in perspective. That being said there is nothing wrong with going out and making a lot of money. I could go on, but I need to get back to work!

Posted by David | Report as abusive

Opponents of health care talk of increased efficiency as the answer and scream of over regulation in socialized medicine, blah, blah, blah. They treat it like it’s the auto industry or something. Without a doubt, these are healthy people, with great health insurance, most likely employer provided at little cost. The simple fact of the matter is…….health insurance in the USA is just to EXPENSIVE for the vast majority, who aren’t under a benevolent employer’s umbrella. The reasons for that are many and as a health care professional, I know, largely lacking the political support to correct. The USA needs some sort of basic universal health care for all it’s citizens. If we can destroy half the Middle East over someone’s idea of foreign policy, we can, as a society, afford to help our neighbors when they are sick.

Posted by Wes | Report as abusive

I am 33 single in peak health working out 45min 4 times a week. I pay $425/month for my PPO plan through my employer.

US has the best quality of health care in the world when you are willing to pay for it.
Why should people expect to get the same benefits for free from the government?

Posted by Jai Kumar | Report as abusive

“Universal health care doesn’t work as shown in other countries” – Sure it does. Go to any country in Western Europe and you’ll see a system that is both cheaper and provides better service. We are all brought up to think that the free market does everything better. Maybe it is time to think outside the box…?

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

Want to fix health care. Let uninsured individuals pay what insured do for services. Here is what I am getting at. My wife was in the hospital for 4 days, the bill came to a little over $14000.00, my insurance paid $4100 and the hospital accepted it as full payment do to the fact that they were in the network. You get a double whammy for not having insurance, you have to pay full price!!!!

Posted by MIKE | Report as abusive

We need universal health insurance. We are spending more money then any other country and rank way done on list of developed countries in terms of health of its citizens. Call it some kind of ism and scare the non thinking into a position that is against their self interest. A single payer system with everybody participating will provide health benefits for all.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

Why do so many people refer to government run health care as “free?”

Econ 101: There is no such thing as a “free lunch.”

The only way for the government to pay for health care is to take the money from the people through taxes, whether through the current tax system or inflationary taxes.

The point: SOMEONE ALWAYS HAS TO PAY FOR HEALTH CARE. Personally, I would rather have the responsibility of securing it myself, on my own or through a good job that covers it, because of the liberty that comes with the responsibility than give the government the power to cut me off at the age of 70 because I would not be worth it to the taxpayers.

Where is the flaw in my thinking?

Posted by Geoffrey | Report as abusive

Hi everyone,
The american system has failed you, unfortunately.

-First you did not become fat (sorry “overweight”) by mere chance.
An environment got created telling you to eat, consume more, not do sport except at pricey gyms. sure you resisted, but you also gave in a little, which is normal considering the pressure.

-Now after having made huge profit from selling fake dreams, corporations are getting your money a second time through huge state expenditure, that will off course be recouped.. on you.

-Finally you dont have enough to have what is only decendy : health insurance.
Not having health insurance is intolerable in a developed country.

Unfortunately, throughout the years, the american system sold its people short.
What was once a great nation is slowly collapsing.
Not at once, but by phases.

It is a time of great danger to the world as many will try to profit from weakness to push forward their agenda.

As individuals, it is a time where everyone should think twice about their life and what is important in it. And collectively make sure those important factors are actually taken into account by the government.

ps for miguel: although it is clear that having universal healthcare is a huge benefits, the threats are also accumulating in europe that will make such a system (among others) unsustainable. Let’s hope the europeans won’t go on the same slope and are more responsible. Nothing is given.

Posted by nicolas | Report as abusive

I am not opposed to helping those truly in NEED due to no fault of their own, as someone mentioned .. children, elderly or handicapped. My taxes are already over 20% and what I do with what’s left is eat as healthy as I can, and control potential BAD HABITS that would contribute to me being chronically unhealthy or ill. The benefit I get is to have lower rates for health insurance even when I have to buy it myself and never even USE it. Sorry, but I don’t want to pay more of my paycheck so that others who want to smoke, drink, and have uncontrolled lifestyle or eating habits that make them sick can have “free” or “affordable” health care. Having an employer “split” the cost of premiums is one reason a lot of people WORK for an employer with benefits. Want to fix something, how about fixing the control the pharmaceutical companies have over the FDA and the health care industry and keep the government from taking away people’s rights to choose alternative treatments. One last thought, perhaps universal healthcare works in other countries because it is not over-burdened by the masses of unhealthy, sick people …. ie. people in other countries are typically healthier because they walk more, eat less junk food, have lower obesity rates, lower heart attack rates, etc…

Posted by Michelle | Report as abusive

Oh, and p.s. to Cheryl who wrote the article …. way to go!!!!! You sound like someone of action who doesn’t just sit around with victim mentality and say ‘poor me’. We all can use some changes in our habits and entitlement thinking.

Posted by Michelle | Report as abusive

I’m 35, grew up in a mid-sized town in Illinois and lived in Chicago for 11 years, too. Have had decent, average mid-management corporate jobs that took me around the world pretty often. Just as an observation, yes, people do grump lightly about socialized healthcare in the UK and Europe, but please know that they do not have long lines and untrained staff and cruddy little doc’s offices and waiting rooms packed with the ailing. That’s a political myth. Period. You need to see some socialized healthcare facilities for yourself to truly form an opinion. Not perfect, but fair and affordable, accessible. Tangible value for your tax money.

The healthcare trusts in the UK do schedule surgeries and non-urgent procedures in advance, yes, and sometimes it takes a few weeks – like 2 to 3 – to see a specialist about something chronic, but that’s no different than our current waiting times here in the States. Plus they don’t pay thousands of dollars/pounds to see a specialist AFTER they’ve paid their already high monthly insurance premiums. And for emergencies? No problem. They get you in ASAP and you pay nothing or a small reasonable fee. The day-to-day peace of mind that this allows is unheard of in the USA. The facilities are clean, modern, easy to find, basic and the docs are globally trained.

In Chicago I still wait 1-2 hours to see my physician who is with the upper-end branded Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group, even with an appointment. She’s busy, she’s nice but asks me the same questions every time as if I was a new intake and never remembers my name or background. Time sucking redundancy every visit for her and for me.

And 90-95% of the dozens of available primary care doctors listed in my US$400-a-month United Healthcare (or Blue Cross Blue Shield, MetLife) insurance plan are not native U.S. citizens, don’t speak English as a first language (which is not bad, just can be hard to relate sometimes) and have completed their core medical studies in developing countries which have different standards of performance assessment (some better, some worse) and facilities that lack the technologies (e.g. deep imaging, cancer lasers) that are used more frequently here in the States.

Plus, most of the docs listed in my plan and many other common national plans are brand new med school grads who are basically training themselves on YOU and their other new patients, or are nearing retirement and have a medical education that was founded in the 1970s with occasional training since then – at their own discretion. Better hope they read up on the latest medical science during their leisure time.

This huge ‘middle-class’ group of health plan doctors all accept slightly lower pay than more experienced, locally trained docs with 7+ years of experience in an advanced medical environments. So they are essentially lower-cost, skilled labor that enables HMOs and PPOs to fatten their margins and spend more on flashy window dressings like ads and logos and nice waiting rooms and lawsuits. It’s a very specific medical business model.

Now I live in Beijing, China and there is no nationalized health care. But it is very affordable to see doctors. Like $50 for a full physical with sterile blood tests and x-rays, etc. This city is also cosmopolitan enough to have a lot of western-trained English speaking doctors who are as good or better than what I’ve had in the USA. Even at the ‘local’ hospitals.

Yes, the facilities are not slick and new, and can be intimidating if you were raised with annually redecorated waiting rooms, but they ARE clean, obviously competent and prompt. That’s all that matters for health care isn’t it?

The core problem is that U.S. healthcare is purely a for-profit business – and all’s fair in war and business. The medical business industry leaders will shave their margins in any way possible to increase profit. Human wellbeing is NOT the primary driver of their income. Just like buying cheap steel and fresh red paint to build a car which looks great but isn’t so super during crash tests, the American medical system is not about safety and longevity for us. It’s pretty damn scary.

A basic fear-reducing solution? Having the gov’t set and universally enforce a strict personal out-of-pocket cost cap for any catastrophic injury or illness would be a fine start, including laws that don’t allow healthcare providers to turn anyone away if they have a catastrophic event that needs attention, and include financial penalties for providers that apply poor service or accidentally mis-diagnosing to subtly dis-incentify people from availing themselves of their affordable treatment right.

This alone would help people sleep better at night. I’m not nearly as worried about seeing my doctor for knee pain, an eye exam, itchy skin, chronic tiredness as I am about what would happen to my dwindling savings if I get hit by a car and need a pin in my femur and a blood transfusion…

Posted by Jen | Report as abusive

I sit here reading your comments and I really don’t think that many of you understand the health care industry in the USA. There are vast chunks of the US population that have universal health care right now. If you are poor(or good at appearing poor on paper), if you are elderly(whether you are rich or poor, if you have a definable disability…..then you have tax payer funded health care today. The best that money can buy. Basically, the ones who don’t have universal health care are the tax payers. Yes, the productive people who pay the bills for the system that serves everyone else. This includes the working poor, who have no health insurance.
Here’s a homework assignment…..Figure you make minimum wage or a few dollars an hour more. Lets even say you make twice minimum wage. Lets say you are out of the healthy 20′s and go out and price some decent health insurance. Be a bit more realistic and add in a preexisting condition, like a large percentage does. Now, come back and let us all know how much of a living wage you have left over after you make your premium. Yet these same people, numbering in the 10′s of millions, are financing the health care of millions of others in this country through their taxes. Yet they do not reap any benefit from that system in paying their bills. DOES THIS SEEM FAIR TO YOU? IS THIS THE BEST THAT WE CAN COME UP WITH?
Oh yeah, for all the health freaks out there……go down to the cancer clinic sometime and ask around for all the people who say they took good care of themselves. Ate right, exercised, didn’t smoke. Funny how disease strikes down such a cross section of the population, no matter their background. It just ain’t fair! Then ask them how they are coping with the $400,000 worth of medical bills that keep showing up in the mailbox. The really sad cases will be the one’s who cry as they tell you how they just let the insurance lapse a few months between jobs and now they have to eat the whole thing. Which they can’t and the bill gets passed down to the next “consumer” of health care, so for next year’s patient that $400,000 bill will be $440,000!
There are ways of providing a basic level of care for everyone and there are ways of controlling costs. It’s a complicated issue but I can’t seem to envision what is wrong with providing the American working man and women, with the same guaranteed safety net as everyone else in this country.

Posted by Wes | Report as abusive

From our view on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada range, dawn has just scattered brilliant sunlight across the Great Basin. It is a new day in the first new season of a promising new era for the United States.

Critical, objective, self-examination is never a bad thing. Cheryl is more responsible than most, eschewing the cycle of borrowing against home equity in a rising market and instead paying the mortgage. The same principles apply to preventative health care, diet, and exercise. Cheryl is now realizing that snacking has costs far beyond the prices on processed foods.

As individuals learn to allocate personal resources (including time) better, the debate rages over the allocation of resources in health care. Angry libertarians decry the “unfair” redistribution of wealth that taxes the productive to mend medical maladies of the irresponsible. Socialists beg medical mercy for the powerless — usually the faultless children of the irresponsible poor — as justification for expansion of the current governmental health care system. Both sides have some valid points about the allocation of medical resources. But both sides miss the larger issue.

As individuals, households, states, and nation, we Americans have lost sight of the allocation of wealth generated from both labor and capital (each of which has seen huge productivity gains due to technological advances of the past 20 years). The real cost of food, clothing, and energy have plummeted. Frankly, the real cost of housing would also be less, except that we Americans have demanded larger, suburban homes.

Rather than enjoy better education, better health care, reduced work loads, etc., we have mostly squandered our new wealth on fatty foods, behemoth SUVs, air conditioning, and the occupation of Iraq (at the cost of US$3,000,000,000,000 (3 trillion)). As individuals and as a nation, we saw no negative consequences as long as our thirst was sated by easy credit (fed largely by a fake increase in home “equity”), our currency advantage, and China’s willingness to lend us money to buy the cheap trinkets produced by its emerging manufacturing sector.

The party is over, and the hung-over revelers have sworn off booze forever — or at least have promised themselves to abstain from binge drinking. Those who borrowed to consume the huge homes, expensive toys, and lavish vacations are waking up from the consumptive binge with a hangover. Those who stick to the promise to reduce consumption will survive and succeed. Those who treat the hangover with the “hair of the dog” (a Bloody Mary, perhaps) will only prolong their personal addictions.

Once we accept as immutable, natural law that we individuals, families and nations cannot, sustainably, in the long-run consume more than we produce, the debate about how to allocate scarce medical resources becomes more rational. Nobody can criticize any individuals for taking responsibility for their own health. Cheryl is on the right track. Obesity and lack of physical activity are the most common causes of Type II diabetes. Getting out of the car, walking to work, and turning off the television (particular Ruppert Murdoch hate channels) will enhance your life, and the lives of everyone else connected to you socially or economically.

Great start, Cheryl. Congrats. Teach by example.


How to truly bring down the cost of healthcare is the question of the day. There are a number of changes that will be needed to accomplish this feat.
One important first step is the digitization of health records. Currently, too many tests are done in triplicate when one considers how our system works now. Doctors refer other doctors, more tests, misdiagnoses, and more tests. We also have a system that seems to reward doctors who do unnecessary procedures and tests as part of their practice. Many family doctors have blocked digitizing of records due to both cost and the simple fact that if others with patient authoriy gain access to patient records they may lose patients to the market.
We also need a system that makes greater use of highly trained doctor’s assistants to handle a larger percent of patient interaction and procedures sparing doctors of time spent on functions that can be farmed out. Doctors will still have some responsibility of oversight but can instead focus on more pressing matters that require a higher level of service. The main aim is to increase the manageable workload of doctors with a better thought out system of organization. This will likely lead to more lawsuits initially but with an active management it will get better.
We need big tort reform legislation to shield doctors from all but the most incompetent decisions made. Furthermore, we need to see more unqualified or incompetent doctors lose their licenses sooner than later.
There is a huge need for Americans to take on a greater responsibility for healthy living. It is critical that irresponsible living should pay a higher premium for healthcare. For those that can’t afford it, they will need to do without until they take their responsibility seriously. While it is true that a percentage of the ‘healthy’ population will eventually be diagnosed with diseases like cancer, it doesn’t change the argument that healthier living will reduce the incidence of disease and bring down the cost of healthcare for the entire nation as a whole. The biggest offense to human health is smoking and obesity. With regards to obesity, even slightly overweight people increase the odds of acquiring disease. The healthiest lifestyle is slightly underweight, achieved through balanced meals. We need better nutritional education for everybody.
Last of all, we need to balance the playing field of prescription drugs. Canada and the European nations pay a much smaller bill for prescription medicines because they coerced giant pharmaceutical firms to lower prices by banding together and threatening to infringe on patents. Some of these threats were only implied but other nations like Brazil bluntly stated their intent to steal drug formulas if they didn’t get the lowest prices. We need international cooperation to block this type of extortion and instead have the expense correlated with per capita income of each nation.
With the system we have now, Americans are basically subsidizing lower prices for the rest of the world. This has to change. While I believe in patent protection, we shouldn’t be paying for the right for lower drugs in other countries. We need a balanced approach of better patent protections worldwide and much lower negotiated prices for Americans. Some wealthier nations need to pay their fair share, while others should pay less.

Posted by Greg | Report as abusive

So many good reasons for never going to America, reading stuff like this makes me so happy I never did :)

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

Thanks for the comments and great discussion, everyone!

Posted by Cheryl Williams | Report as abusive

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