Rationing is impacting health care and it’s going to get worse.

We don’t want to be all “doom and gloom” but facts are facts. This recent story about the crises impacting the National Health Service in the U.K. is disturbing, but not surprising. The article details tragic accounts of what happens when people can’t get access to health care. Our hearts go out to anyone impacted by such a situation.

The reality is that this problem is here in the United States too. And it’s only going to get worse. It comes down to supply and demand. We don’t have enough supply – doctors, hospital beds, resources (a.k.a. money) – to service the demand. We can’t keep pumping up supply because we’re already spending too much money. So we have to cut back demand. That’s a massive challenge because the population in America (and in many industrialized nations around the world) is aging.

It’s impossible for a democracy to implement rationing in a systematic way because it’s not politically feasible. In other words, it’s hard to justify a policy that purposefully puts one person’s health over another’s. Instead, then, we have rationing that is uncontrolled, happening in pockets, happening to the wealthy and the weak. Rationing is its own force and for the foreseeable future, it’s scary for all of us. We literally do not know what’s going to happen when we interact with the health care system.

There are ways to help!

The first is altruistic. We do “the right thing” because we believe in supporting the greater good of the American community. You try to be as healthy as possible so demand for care drops. You don’t access care that’s excessive just because you’ve maxed out your deductible. For the elderly, we consider NOT supporting health care that is not going to significantly improve the quality of life for our loved ones.

We support this altruistic approach but we’re also realists. Most of us, when push comes to shove, will put our needs above others. It’s a function of moral hazard, and it’s the way human beings are wired.

Another way to help is a cross between altruism and self-preservation. That’s where we in the KnowThyself community live. We tell you about health care that you may not necessarily need. The altruist will take this information to heart and avoid the care they don’t need because that’s one way to help others that do need it. Yay!

But there’s also the fact that we each need to get a better handle on what care is “nice to have” and what we really, truly need. This isn’t just for the benefit of everyone else. We’d much rather you be prepared to engage with the system for the care you need understanding that odds are, you’re going to have to be your own advocate. Not all interactions with the system are at the same level of urgency, but the system oftentimes can’t tell the difference.

Get to know your doctor. Help your fellow Americans. But of course, learn the most effective way to help yourself.

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