Time to ‘smah-ten up’

“Smah-ten up, Ee-dah.” Loosely translated from deep “Mainer-ese,” that means, “smarten up, Eder.”

It’s a voice from my childhood, an old coach and counselor from summer camp, Tobias Woodworth. I called him Toby. He called me “Ee-dah.”

Stuck with me and all my other quasi-incorrigible New York City friends, Toby found himself saying, “smah-ten up!” an awful lot. It could mean anything from “you’ve got two strikes — protect the plate” to “put down that rock.”

I can still hear Toby’s voice whenever something just doesn’t seem right to me — like when I think about the current crosscurrents in health reform. I just want to tell this entire country to “smah-ten up” sometimes.

Take this week for example. As I write this column, here are some of the headlines that have appeared on DrugStoreNews.com:

  • Employees’ job worries trump health concerns. 
According to a recent survey of 9,000 employees from large and mid-sized companies, only 59% said that managing their health is a top priority, versus 69% in 2008. Two-thirds of employees said they would be willing to participate in employer-
sponsored lifestyle management programs if employers reduced premium costs for employees;

  • IRS reclassifies breast-feeding as medical expenditure. 
New mothers now can write off or use flexible spending account dollars to pay for breast pumps and breast-feeding products. Pediatricians recommend that new mothers breast-feed for at least the first full year of life for the health of the child. About half of women need to return to work after six months; and

FSA restrictions first piece of ObamaCare to be challenged. Congress in February introduced the 
Patients’ Freedom to Choose Act, which would restore FSA eligibility for OTC purchases.

If Congress spends the next couple of years fine-tuning health reform, we could significantly reduce the total cost by perhaps as much as one-third or more of its current price tag, create a whole lot of jobs that our economy clearly needs, improve the health of tens of millions of Americans, trim away at the national deficit and improve the profitability of just about every business in America.

How? Let’s look at the incentives that drive this whole broken healthcare system we have, from what we pay providers — and what we pay them for — to how patients access and use health care. Just “smah-ten up,” as Toby Woodworth would say.

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