California State Government March 7, 2000 Election
Smart Voter


By Brian M. Rees

Candidate for United States Senator

This information is provided by the candidate
I support health strategies that focus on prevention and strengthen the general health of our citizens, and I propose the availability of medical savings accounts for all.
I am a family physician. I'm proud of my profession and of the great majority of my colleagues and the hard work they do.

But obviously our health care system needs some work. It is really a "disease-care" system--it focuses on the management of illnesses, rather than on the prevention of disease and the promotion of health. Most of our national health is influenced by factors over which this disease-based approach has little control--such as nutrition, stress, societal problems, and environmental toxins. Consequently, in the absence of effective prevention, our present disease-care system can never create a truly healthy society.

Recent research shows that 50% of deaths and 70% of disease in America are self-inflicted--caused by an epidemic of unhealthy habits, including improper diet, inadequate exercise, stress, smoking, and alcohol abuse. For instance, just over 50,000 Americans died in the entire War in Vietnam; yet, almost eight times that many die every year in the United States due to tobacco use. The good news then, is that the majority of disease is preventable.

Still, Republicans and Democrats consistently ignore proven prevention-oriented approaches to health, and Medicare specifically bans funding for such preventive services. The approaches I advocate have been shown to be not only effective, but cost-effective. That is, they pay for themselves: we save $2 in medical services for each $1 we spend on prevention.

Following the federal example, most private health insurance companies also refuse to cover prevention. No health care reform bills debated in Congress have focused on improving health; they have dealt only with problems in disease-care financing and delivery, hoping to save money by streamlining and downsizing the system.

Spiraling health care costs have dramatically increased the cost of health insurance, and 35% of U.S. citizens are now inadequately covered or have no medical insurance. Health care expenditures have also placed a heavy burden on American businesses; if employee insurance costs continue to rise, many companies will collapse by the end of the decade. By focusing on the prevention of disease and the promotion of health, the Natural Law Party offers a solution to the health care crisis that is comprehensive, cost-effective, and scientifically proven.

Our health care platform has two aspects.

1. We support health strategies that focus on prevention and strengthen the general health of our citizens, thereby shifting our national focus from disease care to health care. These programs include prevention-oriented health education, including strategies to modify unhealthy behaviors, and prevention-oriented natural medicines. These preventive strategies have been shown by extensive research to create healthier citizens and to cut health care costs by 50% to 70% (without rationing of health care or denying you your choice of personal physician).

2. We support the introduction of financial incentives that will help prevent abuse of the health care system and ensure high-quality care. These incentives include (a) medical savings accounts for all, including Medicare and Medicaid subscribers, which will provide financial rewards for good health, and restore choice by taking your health care decisions out of the hands of bureaucrats and giving them back to you and your doctor; and (b) vouchers enabling Medicare and Medicaid subscribers to choose any insurance plan or health care provider they desire, thereby promoting competitive costs and quality of care among medical providers. Such financial incentives will reduce demands for unnecessary care and prevent overuse of the health care system by giving greater financial control and responsibility to individual subscribers.

Through our two-pronged approach of preventive health care and financial incentives, we can rescue Medicare and Medicaid from bankruptcy, save the nation approximately $500 billion a year in health care costs, and prevent untold pain and suffering.

America now spends over a trillion dollars per year on health and this health bill continues to escalate. Curing disease is becoming constantly more expensive. To structure meaningful health-benefits options for all Americans without disastrously increasing the federal budget deficit, we must responsibly decrease health care outlays per person--a particular challenge as the population ages. The most effective and humane way to reduce costs is not to deny needed covered services, but to prevent disease in the first place by strengthening the human immune system and eliminating the imbalances that ultimately cause disease.

The prevention programs I'm talking about of course incorporate modern health screening, but also the most up-to-date knowledge of what works in nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction, as well as use of natural herbal preparations, natural dietary supplements, and complementary medical treatment modalities. Americans favor such approaches. There are now more visits to alternative medicine practitioners than to conventional primary care doctors. Research has consistently shown that the prevention programs endorsed by the Natural Law Party significantly reduce the need for conventional medical treatment by empowering individuals to take better care of their own health.

Most people believe that prevention is important even though it's not what we physicians are trained in medical school to address. Ninety three percent of patients believe that promotion of preventive care is very important, but only 46 percent rate their physician as excellent in that area. And only 10 percent of physicians rate their training in prevention as excellent. This demonstrates the need for a new approach in medical education.

Our national health care debate has degenerated into an argument over "who should pay for whose disease," with little attention given to preventing disease and improving health. Funding for proven prevention services has been denied to Americans, largely because the lobbying influence of over 1000 medical PACs (political action committees) has shaped legislation and preserved the status quo. Dr. John Hagelin and Dr. Mike Tompkins, 1996 Natural Law Party candidates for President and Vice-President, have worked closely with the U.S. Congress to introduce wording into health care bills in both the House and the Senate that would provide coverage for any scientifically verified, cost-effective, proven preventive program. This proposal has such commonsense appeal that it has gained the support of conservative and liberal members of Congress alike.

Next Page: Position Paper 2

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