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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 29 2015

The Best Kind of Health Insurance

By Mark Sisson
79 Comments

I’m not interested in talking about Supreme Court decisions, the Affordable Health Care Act or for-profit versus non-profit business models. No, today I have something else in mind. It’s a perspective on health insurance that gets almost no attention at all despite the high costs and even higher stakes.

Let’s look at an actual definition first. From Wikipedia: “Health insurance is insurance against the risk of incurring medical expenses among individuals.” And can those darn expenses ever get expensive… Just as budget experts and lifestyle minimalists advise that the best price is no price when that’s an option, I’d argue the same principle applies here. The cheapest health bill is no bill. And what if our daily choices could help make this possible?

Let me back up and say that I’m not arguing anyone should skip purchasing health insurance (especially these days) or that even the most fervently “perfect” Primal lifestyle will ward off any and all mishaps, accidents or illnesses for which you will thank your stars that you have medical insurance. It exists for a number of legitimate reasons after all.

That said, I think we’ve lost some perspective along the way, including from the get-go assuming that we need to be dependent on our health plans because we’ll inevitably end up beset with many of the conditions we’ve come to deem as “normal” parts of life. It’s accepting the unacceptable if you ask me.

Let’s just consider how expensive it is to be sick. Take for instance the fact that 70% of us in this country take at least one pharmaceutical drug. Over 50% take two, and approximately 20% take five or more.

The estimated annual treatment cost of a person who’s been diagnosed with diabetes is $10,970. (Some estimates put that cost at $13,700 –  2.3 times higher than those who don’t have the condition.) Those who have it but haven’t been diagnosed tend to rack up an estimated average bill of $4,030. Even if insurance pays for a good hunk of this expense, you’re looking at a thousand or few thousand dollars out of pocket. I personally can think of more fun ways to use that money.

And run-of-the-mill obesity (that’s how we’ve come to think of it these days)? One study pins the average added medical cost at $2,741 than that typically incurred by a healthy weight person. The fact is, obesity doesn’t just increase the risk of common lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes but can also increase expenses related to surgery as well as basic care and prescriptions.

In the grand scheme, I may not be able to prevent every bad thing from happening to my body. I don’t have full influence over what toxins are present in my environment. I can’t go back in time and undo some of the things I subjected my body to for years – or decades. I cannot with utter certainty predict, let alone steer, every genetic misfire. (And, then, there are knee injuries….) But it’s flat-out stunning what I can influence.

Reality check: even by conservative American Cancer Society estimates, one-third of all cancers are caused by poor diet, sedentary lifestyle or obesity. In terms of activity levels and cancer risk, research routinely supports physical fitness as a protective factor against many kinds of cancer.

One study of 2,560 men over the course of seventeen years showed those who engaged in intensive level exercise (e.g. running) for thirty minutes a day had half the rate of cancer-related mortality. The choice to meditate, it appears, can lower the risk for heart attack, stroke and death by 48%.

On the flip side, let’s look at something like sleep. The cost of sleep deprivation – in some cases even getting a regular six to seven hours a night rather than eight hours – raises my risk of coronary artery calcificationtype 2 diabeteshypertension and obesityI could go on (and do in plenty of other posts), but the key point is this….

How thoroughly married are we in this society to the idea of dependence on our health insurance – as if our insurance is our source of health? How much have we come to believe that our insurance is what will take care of us?

I’d argue that insurance is most appropriately and accurately a tool we can use to maintain financial stability in the face of unknown and unpreventable events. It can be a means of accessing treatments and services (or negotiated lower costs) we wouldn’t otherwise have access to when circumstance necessitates.

So, what is more accurately our source then – for maintaining and protecting our health as anyone can, for staving off the kinds of medical conditions and events that will cost us our physical vitality and our long-term financial security?

This angle brings up some provocative questions. What if we could begin to see our workout time as health insurance? How about healthy food choices like a side of grass-fed beef or a farm share of fresh veggies? What about wise supplementation and an extra 10 minutes in the morning routine to make some eggs? How about hiking boots and climbing equipment (when actually used)?

How about thinking of whatever helps us sleep well as health insurance – from a warm bath at night to a decent mattress to light blocking curtains to the perspective that nudges us to wind down with an evening walk when others are settling in for a few hours of primetime viewing.

And as long as we’re redefining health insurance, how about we throw in the self-discipline that keeps us from justifying stopping at the drive-thru over our lunch hours? What about the self-care commitment that keeps us from overcommitting and burning ourselves out? And the vacations, stay-cations, personal retreats, and other time off well spent? How about the personal research and skeptical if not unconventional thinking that allows us to make the best, albeit not always popular, choices for our well-being?

Can we envision these practices and the commitment behind them as the real foundation of our health care and preservation. And can we then see the consistent maintenance of good health as our primary safeguard against the burden of significant medical outlay? Talk about a different level of accountability…

It begs the question, “What did you do to protect your health today?”

Thanks for reading, everyone. Let me know your thoughts on the issue, and have a great end to your week.

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TAGS:  prevention

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79 thoughts on “The Best Kind of Health Insurance”

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  1. So powerful! Will be sharing with friends and family. Taking care of ourselves is SO IMPORTANT. We can’t wait until something is wrong to take action

    1. A great post. I have been Paleo / Primal for about 5 years now, but at 53 (as you note) we cannot undo all those years of over-training and just not getting it right…so insurance has it’s place as a “protector”, but not a “core” part of who we are.

      In the last three months my wife has also gone Paleo / Primal. What a difference…all the prescription drugs gone, full of energy, lighter, a happier person

  2. I personally am off of 5 prescription drugs because I changed my SAD diet to that of a paleo nature…it is amazing how sensitive our bodies are to the food we eat. And even more amazing how many people still don’t get it…..

  3. This post really spoke to me today, and it is the main reason why I have continued to eat and live this way. Thank you for sharing this wonderful lifestyle with all of us, Mark. We are better off because of it.

  4. Thanks for a great post! I’ve been following you for a long time and I always appreciate your insight. I will share this with my friends and family too! My husband is a physician and is seeing so much more chronic disease and most doctors have no advice for these people except more medications. My husband has learned so much from my journey eating and cooking real food, supplementing as needed, lifestyle changes etc and is now starting to advise his patients on how to make these changes themselves and TAKE CONTROL OF THEIR OWN HEALTH!
    We need more health care providers doing this too…

  5. Wow Mark– sobering stats and great advice. I am doing well on primal–except my sleep. I think cutting off TV or computers earlier and getting to bed with enough time to log 8 hours is essential!

    Will get to work on it! Thanks.

  6. Over the years, we’ve been slowly and deliberately trained to hand control of our health over to doctors–“don’t worry about it, we’ll handle it” they say, shaking a bottle of Miracle Pills all the while. “We can rebuild you–we have the technology!”

    So what do we choose to do with our new spare time? We work more to make more money to spend on nutritionally-questionable foods, efficiency-questionable and physiologically-questionable exercise programs, go out and purchase flashy, racy cars that go faster than the national speed limit, and engage in incredibly risky and questionable leisure activities when not working, such as drinking, or drinking AND driving.

    The implied message from government is this: “You just keep going out there and consuming (anything), and we’ll take care of the rest. The economy MUST be served by your consumption and your tax dollars, so we’re just going to move out of your way.”

    And we keep on going, oblivious to what’s happening backstage…until one day, someone pulls back the curtain. That moment when the OH MY GOD strikes each of us grabs our attention long enough to make us re-think how we’ve been about this thing called “living”, and how we need very much to course-correct.

    Some of us have been fortunate to course-correct, and have even extended a hand (or book or blog) to others seeking a safe path up that very same mountain. Those who’ve reached the top now look back and shake their heads at those who buzz around at the bottom, thinking that this mountain is impenetrable, so they don’t t even try–they’re too busy consuming in between doses of that magic pill. But the buzzing (buzzed?) will hit a wall one day, and decide to join us at the top, where the view is sharper and clearer, the health much better, the food choices more nutritious and higher-quality, and the time and money much more plentiful while expending less effort.

    1. I enjoy exceeding the speed limit. I feel like that is probably a primal emotion.

    2. What’s wrong with a fast car? It’s a major outlet for unwinding/destressing for me!

  7. Mark,
    I agree……As a health care worker, I have seen firsthand the limitations of main stream medicine and my advice to one and all is to take responsibility for your own health. Educate yourself on what really works to improve/maintain great health. Over the long run it is lifestyle management ( what you eat, how you move, how you sleep, how you manage stress) not pills that will keep you healthy. That is the real “afordable” health care.

    1. I would argue as well that annual checkups, vaccines (eg flu), and test after “routine” test, are largely unnecessary. Health is not what the doctor does, it’s what we do.

      A high deductible plan will focus your attention… except for a dislocated shoulder, I quit doctors and haven’t seen one in over five years. I determined my own thyroid dosage (not difficult) and order from overseas. I order my own blood tests from Life Extension, and the labs are more detailed and better than what my local primary care provided (and no begging required). And by the way the results are better now too! It ain’t rocket surgery…

  8. I think the best way to get people to change is to incent them in the short term for the behaviors we know are best in the long term. Most people don’t think far enough ahead to see that their terrible diet now will result in diabetes 5 or 10 years from now. If we incent people through lower insurance premiums for behaviors that will lower long term health risks, everyone wins. One insurer already starting to do this is Ocsar. They pay you $1 per day to stay active (tracked through a free “Misfit Fitness Tracker”). Check them out at https://www.hioscar.com/

    1. The problem with that (and you are right, companies are already starting to do it) is the whole question of “who decides” what is a “healthy behavior” and what to incent people to do.

      Unfortunately, at the moment, Conventional Wisdom is driving that.

      For example, my company is already working toward tying premium costs to idiotic measures like BMI and outdated thinking about cholesterol numbers such as TC and LDL levels (since everyone “knows” that all LDL is “bad cholesterol” and patA vs patB doesn’t matter…eyeroll)

      So, for example, someone like me is “missing” on about 50% of the “numbers” that are being used, even though based on a Paleo/Primal outlook (and for that matter…a “how I feel” outlook…) Nevermind that I can lift more than I ever could before, do 50 pushups pretty much at the drop of a hat and I am no longer winded climbing a fight of stairs…BMI says I’m “overweight”

      This means I’m faced with the choice of either changing my behaviors to “get the right numbers” (become skinny-fat again to meet BMI “standards” in order to not be “overweight”, change my diet to get my TC and LDL numbers “in line”, etc.) OR continue to do what I’m doing b/c I know it is long-term healthier for me BUT know that I will have to pay an extra $40/month out of pocket for health insurance coverage.

      1. Yeah, fair point. One good thing is that as insurance companies start tracking this, the data will prove out what’s truly more healthy, but that will take time. I think the only Oscar is doing now is making sure you’re staying active, which I don’t think anyone can argue with the benefits of.

  9. Good points. I really need to follow the one about turning the t.v. off in the evening. Very easy to sit down for 30 minutes and get up 3 hours later. My sleep is good, my diet is (mostly) good, I meditate most days and I’m working on getting more exercise – I guess learning to turn off the t.v. is the next challenge!

  10. I purchased an inexpensive, high-deductible health insurance policy several years ago for this reason. I took the money I saved and spent it on proper food and “alternative” health care that insurance wouldn’t pay for anyhow. As a result I managed to fix health issues that conventional doctors had wanted to send me to psychiatrists for. I can travel without terror that my gut will go into rebellion, etc.

    Now that inexpensive policy has been cancelled due to the company pulling out of my state as part of the predictable wave of insurance consolidation that Obamacare has wrought. Grrr. I’ll be forced to subsidize the sickly sheep who trust government nutrition advice and scarf down industrial food-like products composed of taxpayer subsidized wheat, corn and soy like every other serf.

    I keep dreaming about a new country with a few cities surrounded by pasture-based farms. I need to read Toby Hemenway’s new book “The Permaculture City” to get more ideas on that.

    1. Brian, New Zealand comes pretty close. The one thing about agricultural economies is they take some cues from livestock veterinary care. Prevention is necessary for business. It’s the opposite of commercial American medicine where sickness is necessary for business.

      1. I’ve heard good things about NZ, other than the usual somewhat hoplophobic government. I’m thinking more along the lines of quietly disconnecting from the system, which is a whole lot more unrealistic alas. In theory if you got enough semi-like-minded people together far enough away from existing population centers to bootstrap a mostly self-sufficient city you could defend it and be de facto independent. In practice, good luck with that. I’ll probably just continue to quietly sulk.

        1. NZ gun laws are sensible than tyrannical. Gun owners need to document gun safety training to buy hunting rifles and ammo. If you want a handgun or a military sport rifle you need to prove you need it. It seems like anyone can walk down the middle of the street in town with an “A Class” low capacity hunting rifle and people may just think there must be a feral dog on the loose. They also have the Great Easter Bunny Shoot. Teams of four have 24 hours to kill as many rabbits as possible. I can’t think of anywhere in the USA other than Wyoming that you could pull something like that off. The whole country is a Galt’s Gulch.

  11. I totally agree Mark! I very rarely use my “health” insurance (I call it “sick” insurance!) and I have an HSA card that my employer puts a nice chunk of cash on yearly for me, along with my payroll deducted amount…but I use that for my Chiropractic bill and my supplements. I don’t spend ANY of it on the Health Care Industry. I am 48 years old and don’t take any medications and don’t ever plan to. I am working toward exactly what you talked about in this awesome article – working to be healthy so that I don’t have to waste my life being sick! I hope more people are doing the same!

  12. Excellent article Mark! I totally agree with this. I see so many people who think that they can eat poorly and just abuse their bodies in every way and that going to the doctor and taking pharmaceutical meds will somehow fix this. I read medical records for a living currently in my job and I can tell you, this is not what happens. Something goes wrong and one pill is prescribed only to be followed by 2 pills to fix the side effects of the first one..it snowballs until the person is a shell of their former self ( in many cases, not all). so many have just accepted poor health as a normal outcome of getting older. I wish more people shared your views as prevention of these things is the only way to truly maintain our health. Until people start valuing their health more though I fear it’s only going to get worse. I’m so thankful for your website and all of its valuable information. Grok on!

  13. I love these reminders of how SAD everything was before embracing the grain-free, full-fat, microbe-rich, barefoot and grounded, sweat-induced, sunlight enhanced, coco-nutty, sleep-friendly reality which my life is now.

    At 52, and below the weight I was in high school, I’m free of meds, pain, brain-fog, constant hunger, mood swings, and just feel lighter physically, emotionally and spiritually. Sure I have health care, but use it mostly for chiropractic and occasional acupuncture which I do for keeping my immunity strong.

    If I only could convince the rest of my bread, pizza, cake, soda and beer loving family to get on board…but their cravings are too strong. My Paleo food subs just aren’t turning the tide, unfortunately. It is much more convenient for them to eat the SAD way but little by little, I think I’m helping them see the light.

  14. Really fantastic post. The best one in a while. This would be such a powerful mindset shift for America (and the world). Thanks for compiling all of those stats. This is a post I will refer to frequently.

  15. This is related to something I’ve been pondering. When I was growing up it was quite common to find someone who was well in their 70’s who had never been to a doctor. In fact going to the doctor was considered, by some, a sign of physical weakness. Not a helpful view but now it’s 180 degree, where if you don’t go to a doctor you are seen as irresponsible.

    Combine this with genealogy work I’ve been doing. Found many relatives in the early part of 1800’s who lived well into their 90’s (New York and Central PA). In fact, the side of the family that left the farm and moved to the cities (most educated professionals), this is the side has a noticeable decrease in longevity. (My Mom who died of Parkinson’s, had a distant cousin, an MD, who died in early 1930’s with “progressive paralysis).

    So maybe it’s time to stop looking around to see what others are doing regarding their health but look back for clues from your family tree.

  16. Health care as we know it is sick care and the insurance companies will never cover the cost of health – “Health insurance is insurance against the risk of incurring medical expenses among individuals.” True prevention is taking care of mind, body and spirit and that never comes out of a bottle. Our bodies our self healing and self regulating all they need is the proper ingredients – good nutrition, good movement, good thoughts and an uninterrupted nervous system – and this in the long run is much much cheaper than trying to treat the symptoms!

  17. In 2008 I was diagnosed with IBD then UC (ulcerative colitis) and by 2012 it was determined I had Crohn’s disease! During this time I was happy to have health insurance which was costing me around $1100 per month in premiums (self employed) and about another $15,000 a year for medication, hospital visits and deductibles. Before the affordable healthcare act I was paying around $28,000 to $32,000 a year in medical expenses. In 2014 I joined the AHA (affordable healthcare act) and I spent $18,000. Since going Primal/Paleo in the fall of 2013 I have slowly reduced my medical expenses to almost zero! except for the monthly premiums which I may reduce from a Premium coverage to a Bronze – meaning that I would be covered for emergency visits and higher copay.
    Currently at 60 years old I no longer have Crohn’s disease (will post my success story soon) no longer taking any medication for it – with the approval of my doctor, which I now see her twice a year.
    The only medications I am taking are probiotics, vitamin D & K2, cod liver oil and real food. Plus living a primal life style.
    I strongly believe in “Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food”.
    Thank you Mark and everyone at MDA who posts and leave their comments! They are awesome, super helpful and funny.

  18. I am from Canada.As you know we are covered by insurance here. I do believe in our National plan but we are in big trouble. People do not take ownership of their health.Everyone wants a quick fix.Whenever I talk to friends about a primal lifestyle the first thing they say is “I take a pill for that and it works” They are not the least bit interested in improving their health through diet or exercise
    Eventually their will be no money to pay for our health plan. Then these non believer’s will take another look at their health.

    1. I have a friend who takes six different prescription drugs. She doesn’t think that’s very many. At least half of the pills she takes are for things that could easily be prevented or reversed through a healthier diet. Interestingly and sadly, I’ve seen her health steadily deteriorate over the past decade. The doctor’s answer is to hand her another prescription. She just spent an entire month in the hospital. I’d like to point out that her doctor is a serial pill-pusher who is giving her terrible advice, but she’s made it clear that it’s nobody else’s business. She’s basically right about that, so I don’t say anything.

      If, like my friend, one finds their health going downhill despite copious medical care, IMO the three things that should be scrutinized first are diet, lifestyle, and any medications taken on a daily basis.

      1. Actually, with a “Universal” (that is Somebody Else’s Money) Health System, it is intellectually dishonest to say it’s “nobody else’s business” because if the System expects for everyone to pay…others are supplementing your poor health choices.

        It’s funny how people that are in favor of these “Universal” Health System are essentially wanting someone else to pick up the bill, but then become all it’s “nobody else’s business” when their choices (which have an affect on the cost for ALL, not just them) are scrutinized. Can’t have it both ways!

        One individual’s poor health choices increase the cost for everyone (not just themselves) and multiply that by many individuals…

  19. This is one of the things that frustrates me about universal healthcare in Canada. There is no teaching of prevention. While it is by no means “free”, we pay quite a lot for it in our taxes, and not everything is covered by provincial plans so we still need supplemental insurance and we still pay for most medications. UNLESS we have a diabetes diagnosis, then everything is paid for! So rather than help people to actually get healthy when they’re diagnosed, they just encourage them to “here take this pill because it’s free”. And a lot of other treatments that otherwise we’d have to pay for are all of a sudden covered by provincial plans, so what’s the incentive to get healthy if all their treatment is now free?

    Drives me batty. If I were Prime Minister, I’d be making prevention training mandatory for all! And I’d certainly be upgrading the dietary recommendations on the Canada Food Guide!

    1. So true.I pay for a Naturopath Doctor and chiropractor which is not tax deductable. Seems backwards to me. I am 67 and do not take any meds. Living proof diet and exercise work.

  20. I turned 58 today. Between now and my next birthday I promise (part of my 1000 day challenge) to commit to Primal. I’m one of those very fortunate people who have so far escaped the ravages of time and overfeeding or illfeeding but that can’t continue and, admittedly, my blood pressure tends to run a little higher than the medical professionals would like.

    And of course, I’m overweight.

    I’ve been toying with Primal like a cat toying with a ball of yarn and it’s time to get real about it.

    I’m going for living long and dropping dead when my parts just give out.

    1. I have been primal for 2 years now.I lost the last 10 pounds and 7 inches off my waist by going primal.I am 67 years old and everyone thinks I am in my 50’s.
      It works and is so simple.

      1. That’s it, isn’t it? It’s so simple and my head knows it. And when I practice primal, I’m a nicer and better person.

        Thanks for the inspiration.

  21. I went primal at age 60, feel great, etc. This article makes me think that my headline should be “Lost 5 Prescription Meds” instead of “Lost 40 Pounds” and the article should be published in a health economics journal. For the healthcare system, that’s many thousands of $ eliminated. For me, the premium for grass-fed meat and fresh, organic veggies is far less than all those co-pays. See also the specifics from Thomas, above. Policy and economics wonks: study this lifestyle – it could eliminate billions in healthcare costs!

  22. Is there such thing as a capped health insurance group where the participants are measured as in good health thereby lowering premiums? If not, this should be a thing. The merging of health insurance companies is a bit confounding.

  23. The consistent point that all comments are making is to not regard the health system-whether insurance or health care providers-as a substitute for living a healthy, active life as long as we can. Too many in our society mistake disease maintenance for true health, and that is a tragic development for which we will all pay a very dear price. What we can and must do to offset this trend is to show by example the benefits of making healthy lifestyle choices, and to not rely upon pills to make us well, and happy with our world. Life is not easy, but it’s a lot simpler than modern society leads us to believe. That’s a big part of the Paleo message.

  24. Mark ~
    Love your site – love how I feel with the changes I’ve made over the last 2 years, and your site has helped so much. But, please, please, please – differentiate between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Both my husband and my daughter are type 1. When you make statements about diabetes, it wouldn’t be that hard to just key “type 2 diabetes.” The cost of their healthcare is different, their regimens and needs and situations and protocols – and guilt and responsibilities towards their own health are drastically different. Low carb leads to greater control (and thus, greater lifetime health), and I believe a “primal approach” is a really good thing. But, for a type 1, your comments about diabetes (without noting the difference) are truthfully offensive and hurtful. Type 2 is a tragedy that can be fought and won – type 1 can’t be won, it is a necessary daily battle that can only be managed.

    1. Hi, Mick,

      Thanks for your note. It’s a good reminder. The term “diabetes” is often and commonly used to refer to “type 2 diabetes” but it’s best to specific and clear.

      In the first instance of me referring to “diabetes”, however, I didn’t make the distinction between type 1 and 2 because the report I linked to didn’t. As the article I linked to says:

      “UPDATED 2:00 PM 11/21/14: The researchers didn’t differentiate the costs of Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, and Type 2, which occurs later in life and is affected by lifestyle choices. But in an analysis of 2007 data, found that Type 1 accounted for 5.7 percent of people with diabetes and 8.6 percent of the economic burden. In other words, the cost per case of Type 1 is higher, but because many more people have Type 2, it’s responsible for most of the economic burden. END UPDATE.”

      Grok on!

  25. I could not agree with YOUR definition of health insurance more Mark! This is a great post and thanks for sharing!

  26. Thank you for writing this. I have always felt this way and as result that has reflected my lifestyle choices over the years. I’m 53 and my husband is 63, we’ve never been on any medication. We are not perfect, although steadily fine-tuning. But when you compare our health to those of our siblings, the difference that lifestyle choices make becomes irrefutable.

  27. Love a good dose of common sense. Where’s the “Like” button?
    Maladies will happen, to all of us. We are all going to die. I’m just trying to stay as close to fully functional as possible until the time comes. Of course this doesn’t register with some people who tend to gloat when some ailment or another befalls you. “See? all that exercise and–finger quotes–healthy eating and still you got sick!”, never mind their forever increasing pharmaceutical expenses, or inability to play with their little ones, or to enjoy their own skin. Pay no attention to that. Well, I may even die sooner than most of those on artificial life support, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to fight to be actually alive in the mean-time.

    1. “artificial life support” meaning the mega-pharmaceutical doses everyone’s taking these days. And of course the $$$ someone is making.

  28. According to the AAFP there is a shortage of primary care physicians. This makes sense because after investing in medical school, a future practitioner is motivated to specialize to pay off the cost of the training. The reality is we need to be personally responsible for our own primary care. Medical education prepares one for the business of treating sick people. It’s our job to prevent sickness, not theirs. Thank you Mark for providing mindfull resources for personal health awareness. You have filled a gap where the system has failed us.

  29. Apropos of nothing, but reading the comments causes me to remember that recently I was sitting, waiting for a train. As passengers disembarked from an incoming train, it occurred to me that easily 85% (I’m being conservative) of them were overweight to grossly overweight and a good portion of them needed assistance walking.

    Which, in turn, reminded me of the day I was sitting on a bench in Avalon on Catalina Island, killing some time between “things” and watching the crowd. What went through my head as I was watching the happy families on an outing was “What on earth are we doing to ourselves??” as most of the children were overweight as were the adults.

    1. My husband loves to go to the Chinese buffet. He thinks it’s a good choice for me since they have shrimp and veggies, etc. (I get horrible digestive pains after going there, we have dropped it off my list.) Anyway, my point is that one day I was people watching and truly about 95% of the people there were overweight/obese Americans. The Chinese ladies were slim. At another visit, one of the Chinese-American looking ladies had some excess weight on her. I thought “uh ohhhh”.

    2. I just made the same observation about passengers at the train station last week! And even the folks who were not significantly overweight looked somewhat sickly.

  30. I haven’t had health insurance since 1978. Next month I finally get Medicare, so I will have made it 40-plus years without health insurance. Being a struggling musician for much of my life, the extra few hundred dollars a month thrown away on insurance was more than I could afford. So I pledged to “really” take care of my health, way back when I decided to go without insurance. And so, I will have saved well over 100K by not paying monthly premiums all these many years. Yes, it was a calculated risk, but it seems to have paid off. But well before primal living, I seemed to have intuitively known how to take care of myself.

    1. Same here, except I stopped playing the health insurance game 4 years ago. They wanted $700/month and I don’t ever go to doctors. Now I can afford the best quality foods, and to work only part time which gives time to indulge in all the aspects of a healthy primal lifestyle. It also makes me a much more careful person- I don’t take risks that could cause injury. After seeing my parents go down the pharmacuetical road which seemed to prolong their lives but not improve or heal them, I have an alternative plan for when I can no longer “live” life- put me out on a cold night with a case of good beer. (I’ve heard freezing to death is not so bad 😉

  31. I agree with the mind-set shift Mark and view Primal as quality preventative healthcare. Pay now or pay later – choose. Regards!

  32. It truly amazes me that you (Mark) get better and better. I read one of your posts and I think – that is the best one I have ever read from him. Then, a few weeks later you write this one. Bravo

    1. Not trying to be a suck up or anything but Mark’s writing is the thing that keeps bringing me back here.

  33. Great point Mark- I insist that people have health insurance before I’ll train them, because I do think it’s crucial to have. And I think the preventative side, like blood tests, can be very useful. But I hate seeing people treat health insurance as if medical care is plan A.

  34. My employer served glazed donuts at our mandatory health insurance meeting. So… Very. ..Sad.

  35. What did (and will I do) to protect my health today? Excellent question, Mark! Maybe that’s one to make people journal on during the 21-day Primal Challenge!!

    As for me, today, I just ate my Big Ass Salad (chopped beet greens, chopped red kale – including the surprisingly not-so-bitter stalk, orange bell pepper, sliced almonds, red onion, maybe 2 oz of leftover grass-fed strip steak, and a bit of high-oleic canola – hmmm…. – oil), seeing my therapist after work (for mental health, which of course aids physical health), and a workout afterward!!

  36. I rarely reply to Mark’s posts but I, like so many others who have replied, resonated very strongly with this. Detaching from the modern pharma-medical complex is what got me started on my Primal journey 5 years ago. I’m a 61 y/o male and on just 1 med now (levothyroxine) – down from 5 before I started. Never felt better in my life! Thanks Mark!

    1. I am also 61 and have been following (and 80% practicing) Paleo/Primal for a couple of years. Am not overweight but not as toned as I was at a younger age (also have had and raised 2 great kids). I have been on levothyroxine for 20 years. Wonder if I can get off it?

    1. Always on point Mark. Your writings are truly inspiration and full of common sense (if that even exist anymore).

  37. Mark and MDA has helped me embrace a lifestyle that keeps me medicine free, and at 51, that’s quite the feat. Thanks and blessings to everyone here who works so hard to help people live as healthily as possible.

  38. A former co-worker of mine (working in insurance, coincidentally) had multiple conditions including type 2 diabetes, and was resigned to the idea that his pancreas would one day shut down completely and he’d have to start injecting insulin. It was deeply depressing; the guy couldn’t have been more than 45 years old and he already “knew” his bad health was irreversible because that’s what all the medical experts had told him.

  39. My best friend has used good diet and lifestyle as her only health insurance for years as she couldn’t afford insurance before now. It was always pRt of her voluntary simplicity lifestyle. We have always had insurance but her attitude has definitely affected me these 17 years..

  40. Nice thoughts.

    However, even with a veggie rich Paleo Diet, wise supplementation, plenty of exercise and healthy habits, I was diagnosed last year with Stage 3 uterine cancer when my ovary ruptured. (I’m too young and too fit to fit the profile, but do have 4 genetic mutations which compromised my estrogen metabolism …)

    While I was happy to have insurance pay for my $53,000 hysterectomy and hospital stay, and $11,000 per chemo treatment (which I balked at but even my naturopath encouraged), I’m $60,000 out of pocket for well researched, sensible integrative treatments and supplements that my insurance thinks is “experimental”, even though there are dozens of studies supporting my treatment plan which has saved my life.

    My cancer is in remission, but without insurance, our finances would be in shambles. But it’s laughable what insurance covers and doesn’t and the rules are counterproductive.

    I am sick of hearing about “high deductible” policies, where the deductible can’t be reached by the valid treatments I’m receiving. And I’m tired of being nagged by my insurance to lower my cholesterol (it’s 164), lower my fasting glucose (it’s 83), and lower my BMI (it’s 21.2). Where are they for the help I do need?

    If insurance covered nutritional intervention and supported well researched functional medicine tests and treatments, rather than incenting doctors to write prescriptions that bandaid problems that lead to a snowball of chronic disease, people would be healthier and healthcare costs lower.

    Insurance is a necessary evil, and the worst could happen to all of us. Let’s hope the system will improve in time.

  41. I agree with a lot of this, but I think most of us nodding our heads (and maybe patting ourselves on the back a bit?) are privileged enough to make health a priority. Self-discipline to not stop by the drive-through? What if you’ve got $4, 2 kids to feed and zero time after working 2 jobs? Self-care and vacations? Tell that to the 20-something kid working on his feet all day for minimum wage. We know that obesity is directly linked to poverty, and that fresh, quality food is not available in every community. The populations who are often been left out of traditional health care (yep, even under Obamacare, google the Medicaid gap) aren’t likely to find this personal approach to health insurance within reach either. So I think this is a good place to start but it makes me a bit nervous when we start talking about health insurance as primarily an individualistic pursuit.

    I believe 100% in taking health insurance and health care into our own hands, but I think we’ve got to start seeing this as an issue we’re all working on together. We’ve got to look at health and disease in the context of economic and social justice, and start thinking about the whole community.

    1. Good reminder, Angela. Loving all the comments and the article today.

  42. Mark and company,
    Have you ever considered a like button for the comments?
    The above comments for today’s post all deserve a “like”, very inspiring….

  43. this subject (health insurance) comes up occasionly at the gym where i work out – especially in the last few years. My standard reply is THIS is my health insurance. I would rather spend 30 bucks a month at a gym than “betting against myself” and paying a premium to a book maker (insurance company)

  44. Another reminder that we are responsible for our own health. Thank you Mark!

  45. Thanks for such a great post. These ideas of self-care strategies can have a profound effect on the level of vitality we express as individuals. Ideas which have been down played, if not completely dismissed, by the industries whose prominent concept of “healthcare” is a symptom based approach. You have far more control and influence over your health than you are led to believe.

  46. Certainly, staying active and eating healthily are far better than any life insurance! But the two things are not at all the same. A healthy lifestyle is the best thing you can do for yourself, maximizing your happiness in life.
    However, health insurance will keep you from penury if an accident happens, or a disease that slips by your defenses.
    You truly need both. And those who say they had better exercise, and eat right, since it’s their only health insurance, are implying that if they have insurance, people don’t need to take care of themselves. WRONG!

  47. Great article Mark. As a Canadian, we tend to look at Health Insurance a bit differently but I do agree with the main message of your post. As one of your readers pointed out this would be such a powerful mindset shift for America…and the world for that matter.

  48. Mark,

    As many articles and horror stories have surfaced lately about the antibiotic resistant bacteria that are killing people in hospitals, it’s almost safer to stay away from hospitals and the whole model of healthcare that promotes these treatments, surgeries, scans, scopes and more.

    It’s a paradoxical thought to think that the most prestigious places like UCLA hospital are able to help people replace joints and hearts and who knows what else, but that by not thoroughly cleaning a commonly used scope tool, they can lead otherwise healthy people to the grave.

    I don’t know what’d I’d do if I were faced with the proposition of using health insurance and going to one of those places…

  49. Interesting how semantics can shape our attitude towards the actual things. I’m from Germany, and the German word for health insurance actually translates to “sickness insurance”. I never thought about the difference between the languages until you brought it up. Seems like the German term is far more accurate.

    The attitude is different, too: It always surprises me to see how ubiquitous pharmaceutics are in the US. Huge pharmacies everywhere, flu shots at the grocery store, lots of advertisement for all kinds of medicine… as a foreigner, one could get the impression that America is a country plagued by disease.

    I found the stats on med use so impressive that I looked up the numbers: In Germany, 40% of women and 30% of men take at least one pill per day. Now, that’s still way too much, but only half of what’s being consumed in the US.

    But we also do have our fair share of obesity, diabetes etc., and doctors are handing out pills for these conditions like candy.

    I’m trying to get my mom of her blood pressure medication and bought her “Practical Paleo”. She read it, but claims she can’t eat anything for breakfast than bread :-/. She also thinks she is fine as long as she takes her meds and doesn’t see anything wrong with taking them.

    Anyway – thanks for the article. Already doing good food- and exercise-wise. But we’ll make an effort to leave the TV off tonight 😉

  50. Mark, thanks for sharing all the information you do. I am continually inspired when I read your posts.

  51. I wish we could start a Medical Cost Sharing program for the Paleo/Primal community.
    We found one that our family now uses (Liberty), but even they don’t really promote a healthy lifestyle. That said, it’s 1/3 of the cost of our ‘best’ alternative “sick-care insurance” and we stay well with diet and lifestyle choices so it’s a good ‘catastrophic’ type option.

  52. Always on point Mark. I stay healthy (getting more serious by the day) in order to not be on medications. I do not trust Pharmaceuticals to bring me a high quality of life. I understand some people need them but I want to do everything in my power not to take them.

  53. What happens when the new “standard of care” continues to tell us that iodine is toxic, the mercury in amalgam fillings is safe, and fluoride is healthy? Okay, maybe it will be less expensive over all, but people will still be given the wrong information.

  54. Hey Mark! Thanks for all the good work, and another great article giving balanced perspective on health.
    For years I’ve been thinking that what the health insurance industry really needs is a truly NATURAL option: a private insurance company with a business model and services based on ancestral health.
    This plan could include catastrophic coverage for accidents and injuries, but also discounts/coverages for targeted testing, chiropractors, supplements, gym memberships, etc.
    Instead of “alternative” treatments being auxiliary/limited coverages as part of a traditional medical-model plan, these would be the “bulk” of the items covered under a truly natural insurance plan.
    Pre-screening clients could be an option to lower the overall exposure of the business, and likely offer premiums that would be competitive or even much cheaper than mainstream insurance options.
    Maybe you and Robb Wolf can put your heads together and make it happen!!