Michael Falk, author of Let's All Learn How to Fish ... to Sustain Long-Term Economic Growth, wants Americans to reconsider what makes us "healthy, wealthy, and wise."
Falk also wants us to reimagine healthcare, retirement, and education policies so that we can usher in what he calls a new ERA (from Entitlement to Responsibility with Appreciation) of sustainable long-term economic growth.
In a recent interview at the Financial Planning Association's annual conference in Chicago, Falk discussed his "cure for healthcare."
In his book, Falk writes that "any framework for sustainable healthcare policies begins with a robust, core structure. In his case, that would be 10 principles and the interaction of incentives (offers that could improve health) and personal responsibility. These principles, he believes, have the potential to increase wellness, decrease costs, and diffuse the ticking economic time bomb in healthcare.
"The first thing we have to realize is we don't have healthcare," said Falk, who is also partner with Focus Consulting Group. "We have sick care. We may call it sick or injured care because the only time this comes into play is when we're sick or injured."
And there's nothing, he says, in what we have today that is trying to "incentivize health," that is "trying to keep us healthy."
Listen to a podcast of Bob Powell's interview with Michael Falk.
According to Falk, upward of 90-percent-plus of all chronic illnesses, chronic conditions are due to behaviors, not genetics. "We're talking behaviors: eating the wrong stuff, drinking the wrong stuff, enjoying the couch more than the gym," he said. "We have all that control, massive control, over keeping our health better for longer and what we have as health insurance is not incentivizing any of that. We need to flip the coverage."
To be sure, some companies, including those in the wearable technology space, are incentivizing the right behaviors. But Falk doesn't think those companies are "doing the incentives properly."
For instance, Falk wants health insurance firms to charge people more for the wrong behavior - not getting a free annual physical examination for instance - and lower costs for people who improve their health. "It's all about flipping the incentives," he said. "We want to help people take care of themselves. If they do, their costs go down. If they do, society's costs go down."
Another component of Falk's cure for healthcare has to do with technology, records, and information. All that, according to his book, would become the "central medical nervous system" for the entire medical system and be leveraged to act as the facilitator of information and timely feedback to caregivers and patients.
"Make all the data blind and open up the country's data to researchers," he said in the interview. "Do you know what we can potentially discover about disease and illness and chronic based upon all that data across age cohorts? There is a gold mine of information that can help us help people be healthier."
Falk also discussed a novel plan to address end-of-life medical spending in the last 12 months of life, as well as his plan to replace employer-sponsored health insurance and with a subsidy for individually purchased healthcare insurance.
"Understand, in my strange little healthcare world, there is no such thing as employer healthcare," he says. "Everybody has their own policy that starts at birth. How do you avoid preexisting conditions? You start the policy when they're born, and most preexisting conditions will not have ever existed in the policy."
In the absence of having his plan to fix healthcare in the U.S. become a reality, Falk said there are steps individuals can take now. "You have to take responsibility for your healthcare," he said. "Get involved... We all know the phrase use it or lose it. Use it or lose it."
In his book, Falk details several practices that can "dynamically change how we experience health or disease. Those practices include restful sleep, a healthy diet, caring for your mind and body (exercise), and caring for your care, including finding a primary care physician and getting an annual physical examination.
These things, he says, can change "make enormously positive difference" on your health. "The first step is to basically acknowledge you get one body when you're born," he says. "Maybe in the future we'll get a lot of replacement parts, but right now, you have one body. If you think from that perspective, I need to care for this, this is the greatest asset that I own, human capital, if we can get people just to start little things that they can do to start taking responsibility."
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