Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Realities of Health Insurance, Part 1

The Realities of Health Insurance, Part 1

The more money that we spend, the more thought gets put into the purchase.  For the vast majority, that is a fact of life.  When performing a costs vs. benefits analysis, it is necessary to know the right questions to ask.  Unfortunately, as costs have continued to rise in healthcare, it has become increasingly difficult to know what needs to be evaluated in order to make sound decisions.  It can be very confusing. 

At the heart of the confusion is so-termed “health” insurance.  Years ago, it was purchased by consumers to protect themselves in the event of a crisis requiring hospitalization.  As the modern American mindset toward health changed to fit a philosophy primarily concerned with treating symptoms in as instantly gratifying a manner as possible, what constituted an emergency began to encompass a much larger scope of issues, most of which had not previously necessitated evaluation.  The healthcare industry exploded.  The last resort became one of the first options and the number of unnecessary hospitalizations soared to nearly 10 million per year. 

The primary therapy for nearly every ailment became pharmaceutical; the by-product of expanding the list of reasons to visit doctors is that Americans now consume 80% of all the medication produced in the entire world despite making up just 5% of the world’s population.  This “ready, fire!, aim” mentality that often ignores the cause and context of symptoms has been instigated by direct-to-consumer advertising from pharmaceutical companies.  Since the turn of the century, between $2.5-4.5 billion annually has been spent on prescription drug advertising; six times that amount was paid yearly to promote medications to doctors.  The average 17 year old has seen over 20,000 hours worth of drug commercials.  Everywhere you turn, you are reminded about the various symptoms of the thousands of modern diagnoses.  The insurance industry has jumped in and assumed a lot of the corresponding astronomical spike in cost, but the premiums to afford insurance have skyrocketed accordingly. 

Quality of healthcare has plummeted down as costs have continued trending up.  Despite spending nine times more per household on healthcare today than was spent in 1980 (adjusted for inflation), our health system is one of the worst in the world among industrialized nations. 

Our healthcare system, around which the health insurance system is built, has been operating on shaky ground for several decades.  The term “health” is defined as the condition in which an organism performs its vital functions properly.  Yet, over 90% of our healthcare system is designed to get patients to treat their symptoms with medications that may or may not stop the symptoms, but unquestionably do disrupt vital functions; such is why the drug advertisements are two-thirds full of side effect warnings.  If health is about maximizing function, the primary means by which Americans supposedly achieve health – drug therapy – serves the opposite purpose.  No wonder our health system is in shambles.

In order to lower health insurance costs, progress must be made in fundamentally changing our healthcare system.  For that to happen, the consumers that drive the system need to be empowered to thoroughly appraise the current state of affairs.  One important question to ask is: what role should insurance play?

One of the basic laws of the insurance business is that the greater the likelihood of dire circumstances, the more money it will cost to purchase insurance against it.  Insurance is, therefore, most affordable when fewer claims are being filed due to dire circumstances.  A fundamental problem with modern “health” insurance – more appropriately named “sick” insurance – is that we have collectively lost sight of when it is and when it is not appropriate to use it.  The more we utilize it, the higher the premiums will be; the more the public is educated to visit the doctor for even minor concerns, the more money the public will spend.  The best way, then, to keep your insurance costs to a minimum is to be healthy enough to avoid using it. 

That begs the question: how does one go about becoming healthy?  How does your body, as the definition states, perform its vital functions properly?  First, its central nervous system must be capable of working normally; that means limited to zero interference within your body’s electrical network – the body cannot function properly if its brainstem, brain, or spinal cord has been even subtly injured due to even minor trauma no more than a faulty smart phone is capable of performing 100% of its advertised features.  Second, if the structural foundation is properly balanced, the body can develop normally and sustain itself physically over time, but the opposite is true if the foundation has shifted, making a simple task like exercise far more difficult.  Third, the body needs constructive sources for sustenance; it accepts water, naturally grown fruits and vegetables, and animals farmed without antibiotics or hormones much easier than it does soda, processed meats, and food from crops sprayed with chemicals.  Finally, learning to navigate emotional highs and lows is quite important, for the less stress on the body the better; stability is one of the primary things necessary for functioning properly. 

You may then ask: shouldn’t your insurance cover the above?  Not necessarily, because the reality is that insurance is not designed to support how you go about achieving health; it is most readily accessed by the cumulative effects of not being healthy and/or by catastrophic events.  Tweaks to the insurance system to include within its costs the ability to seek preventative care are inherently flawed because the basic law of insurance is that catastrophes are going to happen (why else would people buy insurance?); preventing calamity breaks that law.  So, it is important to recognize that the associated costs for the education and guidance that health professionals can offer to help you and your family achieve the above and become healthy are understandably separate, in many cases, from your insurance premiums.   

The confusion ends when the understanding begins.  If we cooperatively redefine health, we consequently demand that healthcare changes.  If we inspire healthcare to change, we simultaneously hold insurance companies accountable.  The consumers will have to be the ones that initiate the grassroots process, one person at a time.  With a better grasp of the right questions to ask, sounder decisions can be made, health can increase, and costs can decrease. 

Sources: The Washington Post, The American Thinker, American Medical Association,, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Chad McIntyre owns and operates the Triad Upper Cervical Clinic in Kernersville.  Specializing in Upper Cervical Care, his practice emphasizes a proactive, goal-oriented approach to health heavily rooted in thorough patient education. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

ESPN Special Focuses on Upper Cervical Care, Jim McMahon's Recovery

The ’85 Bears
Original Air Date: Thursday February 4, 2016 at 9 pm

CHICAGO -- Jim McMahon would leave home and forget how to get back. The last time we saw Jim McMahon on national television it was not a pretty picture. In an episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryan Gumbel that aired one year ago he talked about his pain, about how he used excessive amounts of painkillers, about his many surgeries, about his memory loss. The former quarter back admitted he had considered suicide, like teammate Dave Duerson, who shot himself to death in 2011.

Filmmaker Jason Hehir said McMahon’s doctors have determined that the root cause of his problems is in his cervical spine and not so much his brain, the result of repeated concussions. It has completely revolutionized the way people are starting to look at the concussion issue.

Executive producer Vince Vaughn insisted the upper cervical specific chiropractic care McMahon received was “not quackery. We show him in an MRI machine, we show you the scans and the scans don’t lie. It’s how his brain was before and after the treatments. His condition has improved immensely under upper cervical specific chiropractic care.”

The most significant objective proof of upper cervicals results has been demonstrated by Scott Rosa, DC, McMahon’s chiropractor, and Raymond Damadian, MD, inventor of the MRI. Recent research shows a correlation between trauma and Chiari, by hyper flexion type strains of the cord, in which the neck over stretches as it is pulled forward by the weight of the head moving in a chin toward the chest direction, can traction the brainstem and pull it down toward the foramen magnum. On the way down it causes a compression deformation of the larger part of the brainstem in the foramen magnum. The action would be similar, for example, to pushing a cork into the top of a wine bottle. The cork compresses and deforms as it enters the bottle top. As the driving force is released the cork then expands and becomes trapped in the bottle top. If you turn the bottle upside down the wine cannot get past the cork. In the brain, blood and cerebrospinal fluid similarly get trapped.

Jim McMahon, former quarterback for the Chicago Bears, speaks in Stamford, Connecticut on behalf of the Trauma Imaging Foundation. McMahon suffered three diagnosed concussions while in the NFL, but states that looking back, he knows he had many more that went undetected. He has been diagnosed with early dementia. An upright MRI revealed that McMahon had misalignment of C1 & C2 with the base of the skull, pathological cord distortion, aberrant cerebrospinal flow and significant stasis of cerebrospinal fluid pooling in the frontal lobe of his brain. Since the skull is a closed hydraulic system, too much CSF means not enough blood. McMahon says that Dr. Rosa’s TIF research and treatments literally “saved my life.”

He found out about five years ago, when he went for X-rays and an MRI. Doctors told him he had broken his neck at some point, and McMahon believes it happened with the Minnesota Vikings during the 1993 season, when he got sandwiched by two Giants defenders in a playoff game at New York.
Just moments after the first cervical adjustment, McMahon said "it felt like a toilet bowel flushed and all the pain and stress went away". This occurred because the CSF (Cerebrospinal Fluid) flow went from being obstructed to flowing normally, allowing it to remove the neurotoxins and wastes that are a byproduct of brain function. This improved Jim McMahon's dementia symptoms as well his brain fog, migraines and slurred speech.

The pain in the 55-year-old former quarterback's head was so excruciating, the throbbing of every single heartbeat in his ears so persistent, that he mostly sought refuge in the bedroom of his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was the only way he could find any sort of relief, and even then -- just lying on his bed with the lights off -- he couldn't completely escape the pain. "It got to the point where I wouldn't get out of bed for weeks at a time," the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback said.

"Let's raise the awareness about this problem,'' he said. "I wish they had figured out what was wrong with me sooner, but at least I got some help. Let's help others out there and let's deal with the problem."

"Medicine will start looking at the brain, spinal cord and spine together. The emphasis is on the together part. Medicine sees a brain injury as something that only exists in the brain, and a neck injury as only something that exists in the neck, but the blood, tissue, and cerebral spinal fluid are all continuous between these two parts of the body. Symptoms of brain trauma can actually be symptoms of neck trauma, and vice versa,” said Guskiewicz. Kevin dedicated his career to discovering and harnessing knowledge about head injuries. Now, he's a highly regarded concussion expert and the recipient of the $500,000 Genius Award.

As a researcher he has made major advances in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sports-related concussions. Each year, approximately 3.8 million athletes in the United States experience mild traumatic brain injuries, or concussions. Through laboratory and on-the-field research, Guskiewicz has played an important role in raising awareness about the dangers of sports-related brain injuries in both professional and youth athletics. He was among the first to identify the long-term effects of multiple concussions, including cognitive impairment and depression in later life, through large-scale epidemiological studies of retired professional football players. Recognizing the inadequacy of traditional concussion screening tools — most rely solely on an athlete's self-report of symptoms — Guskiewicz demonstrated that postural control, or balance, serves especially well as an objective measure in the evaluation of concussive episodes. His portable and cost-effective Balance Error Scoring System is now widely used by athletic trainers at colleges and secondary schools to diagnose and manage injury more accurately and rapidly. 

His recent work focuses on the cumulative effects of repetitive, sub-threshold brain impacts. Using accelerometers embedded in the helmets of college football and youth hockey players, he and colleagues are investigating the relationship between magnitude and number of head impacts and clinical symptoms of concussion. Taking this research a step further, he is working directly with collegiate football players and coaches to identify dangerous hits in real time and to correct improper tackling techniques associated with sustaining concussions. While engaging clinicians, coaches, parents, and athletes in recognizing the immediate and long-term effects of concussions, Guskiewicz is contributing significantly to state and federal policy discussions concerning development of more stringent return-to-play guidelines and headgear investigations that will improve the safety of athletes of all ages.

“I first discussed the correlations between my Meniere’s research with Kevin and his concussion research fifteen years ago,” Dr. Burcon commented. He encouraged me to stick with it even though mainstream medicine would first dismiss it because it was something new.

You might not have bought a movie ticket for “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy,” but that is the actual syndrome at the heart of the movie “Concussion.” CTE is a brain disease found in patients with a history of repetitive hits to the head.

“Luckily, upper cervical care can allow people to play contact sports safely,” states Tom Forrest, Blair upper cervical doctor practicing in California. All athletes of every age should get regular checkups by an upper cervical specific doctor, just like going to the dentist.