With the Memorial Day holiday I’ve gotten off track so this month’s newsletter is a little late. I’ve also was uncharacteristically sick all last weekend with a sinus and eye infection and bronchitis. I guess I’m allergic to taking a short vacation! Actually, I forgot to do two important things on my trip that allowed me to get sick. I never travel without my essential oils or my air purifier. This time I forgot both and I think that made a difference for me. I also went snorkeling on Memorial Day off a reef in the Atlantic and developed a sore throat by that evening from sinus drainage. Who knows what I picked up in the waters off the Florida coast? Anyway, I hit this infection with everything I had at home last weekend but it still wasn’t getting better. On Monday I grabbed some Goldenseal 500 from Medi-Herb at the office and it made a world of difference immediately.
Truth in Labeling
Medi-Herb supplements are made in Australia and are very potent. Supposedly, the labeling laws in Australia for supplements are the same for prescription drugs. If it says there is 500 mg of some herb on the label, you are going to find that much in the tablet. Conversely, supplements sold in this country may not have any of the ingredients it lists on the label. A study was done in Denver where they went into different health food stores and bought different Echinacea products and had them tested. The results showed that only 20% actually had the amount of Echinacea listed on the label and another 20% had no Echinacea in the product at all! The rest of the 60% had varying amounts of Echinacea all less than the stated amount on the label. This is why many times people try Echinacea or glucosamine sulfate from the sales bin at the health food store and feel that it didn’t help them. There probably wasn’t any Echinacea or glucosamine in there to start with!
I find Medi-Herb to have the highest potency supplements of anything I’ve tested but they are also more expensive than most. Most high quality nutritional supplements aren’t cheap but then getting sick isn’t cheap either. If you think that you are getting a great deal on a bottle of vitamins from Safeway or Costco you could be actually paying a lot for very little real product. If you have something you are taking and aren’t sure if it is working for you, bring it in on your next visit and I will test it for you to see if it works. In the long run, cheap vitamins can be very expensive to your wealth and your health.
Living a healthy lifestyle is the best health insurance you can buy. The extra money paid for fresh organic food verses the processed, packaged and dead variety is really a form of health insurance where you reap the benefits. The really expensive health insurance is the one you buy to pay your medical bills. Though I’m not an expert in insurance and I don’t have any companies to recommend, there is a program that is worth knowing about and I find a lot of people have never heard of.
A Health Savings Account is an account set up for you to put money into to pay for medical expenses and is combined with a high deductible health insurance policy. It is similar to an IRA account because the money going in is tax deductible. The money in the account is yours to spend for anything related to your health like; Acupuncture, Chiropractic, nutrition, over the counter drugs from the store, dental, optical, etc. There is a long list of things that you can reimburse yourself for that most insurance policies would never cover (i.e. supplements). The high deductible health insurance is much cheaper to buy and so you save a ton in premiums. This works great for anyone who is healthy and seldom sees a medical doctor. If you have a lot of health problems you are probably getting more benefit out of your low deductible health insurance because you are using a lot of medical services and medications.
The higher the deductible is on your insurance policy the cheaper the premiums will be. This is because you are lowering the burden on the insurance company and accepting more of the risk yourself. Health insurance was never designed to pay for office visits and incidental medical care. Back in the 1920’s people with health insurance had a $100 deductible. This was equivalent to about one month’s pay for most people. In the 1940’s, with a shrinking labor force due to WWII, many large manufacturing firms started offering health benefits and an incentive to work for them. This practice continued on into the 60’s as part of union labor contracts so it became almost a god-given right to have cheap medical coverage. When I worked for International Harvester Company (IH) in Chicago in the late 70’s, we had the same insurance coverage as the union guys on the assembly line. That meant a yearly $100 deductible and a $5 co-pay for any medications or office visits. I paid $0 a month for this coverage which also included dental and vision. The expense of this and other fixed costs related to employee retirements caused IH to go bankrupt after being in business for over 100 years. Most of us think our car insurance is too expensive but think what it would cost you if it paid for your gas, oil changes, tires, repairs, etc. That is how we used medical insurance over the years and insurance costs have skyrocketed.
Also medical cost skyrocketed because there was no incentive for medical providers to contain their costs. The person getting the services was not directly paying the bill so they didn’t care if the rate went up 20% a year. Normal market forces and competition that keeps prices competitive were bypassed because a third party was paying for the services. For the past 15 years 20% has been the average annual inflation rate for all medical specialties except one. Plastic surgery has only gone up about 5% a year because it is mostly elective surgery that is paid for by the patient and not an insurance company. The price is more important if you are footing the bill directly.
When you have a high deductible on your car insurance you are saying, “I’m willing to pay for the first $1000 of damage but you pay for the rest of it Mr. Insurance Company.” This policy is cheaper because the insurance company is not going to get a bill from you for every $100 scratch, dent or ding. Same holds true with your health insurance. If you have a $1500 or $5000 deductible, you are only going to be submitting claims on major illnesses or injuries and not for every aspirin and band-aid. The government has allowed us to set up accounts (first MSA’s and now HSA’s) with tax deductible money to reimburse us for those daily health expenses and act as our own insurance company. They want us to get the cash discounts that insurance dependent clinics and hospitals give when they don’t have to bill an insurance company and then fight with them for 2-6 months to get paid even a portion of it. It is worth it to their bottom line to give you an up front price break to have the money today. HSA’s restore the normal market transactions between the supplier and end user of the medical service and are forcing prices back toward more realistic levels.
Extra Retirement Plan
Another benefit of an HSA is that once you hit retirement age, you can pull the money out like your IRA for any use. It is then taxed like the proceeds of an IRA but if you use the money only for medical expenses then it is still tax free. These programs are gaining in popularity and they make economic sense. Please don’t take my writing as the last word on this subject but talk to someone who works with these programs and get the facts.
The July 4th
holiday will be on a Wednesday this year so we will be closed that day
but opened during normal hours the rest of the week. Have a safe and fun