Qnexa, healthcare plan and gym bill

1 Nov

This post may seem a bit off-topic as I normally don’t discuss serious things in here. However, I still think what I’m going to discuss is relevant. As a chef and a healthy life style advocate, a message I’ve been always sending out to my audience is be healthy and be happy. In that respect, this is truly a relevant post. Please let me know your thoughts.

FDA rejected two weight loss drugs—Lorcaserin and Qnexa  in the past two weeks. The news came as no surprise—the FDA’s advisory committee, a body consists of medical experts that provide professional perspectives to FDA’s approval of new drugs voted against the two drugs months ago. However, the news still made headlines in this country’s mainstream media—after all, obesity is such a big challenge America is facing.

Today, me and my co-workers spent an hour listening to an Aetna lady detailing us about a revised 2011 healthcare plan for employees. Two things really struck me. First was how complex the healthcare plan was, especially given the fact that my colleagues and I deal with nothing but drugs everyday and we still quickly got lost in those words such as “co-pay,” “deductible,” and “co-insurance.” The second thing was how much more we needed to pay for branded prescriptions ($60 per prescription) vs. generic drugs ($7 per prescription) if there’s an option. This suddenly reminded me the book I had been reading—The Truth about the Drug Companies, written by Marcia Angell, the former editor in chief at New England Journal of Medicine. By revealing the process of developing new drugs, Angell vividly describes what drug companies have been doing to generate huge profit.

As I was writing this blog, the auto-generated monthly bill from New York Sports Club—a monthly $79 investment that makes me sweat at least 3 times a week—came to my inbox.

Can you see the knot here?  They are all about making people healthy.

But the question is which one is the most cost efficient—do we need more new drugs? A more functional healthcare system? Or simply a healthier lifestyle?

The complexity of healthcare reform resonates the challenge we are facing in searching for an ideal solution for a healthier world tomorrow. And the discussion of healthcare in the U.S. also has an impact on China, Japan and Europe who hold tremendous stake of U.S. government bonds.

As I am asked to choose a healthcare plan out of four options for myself next year, the question boils down to whether I should invest more money on a more advanced plan or set aside the money for wellness programs such as gym membership that are focused on improving wellness in the long term. I’ve decided to choose the latter. However, it is not a hard decision for me as I’m fortunate enough to have a generous employer that offers me a plan that is fancy enough even if it’s not the most advanced. But I’m sure it is a tough decision for many people—adding healthcare expense will consequently cut budget for other spending. You may not be able to afford organic food or you may have to skip your Yoga class, which can all help you reduce the chance of getting sick.

When you look at the whole big picture of the healthcare system, the biggest bulk of money ended up going to chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, which can be largely prevented. But the healthcare system does not response until the onset of the diseases or conditions, when it is way much more expensive to treat them.

I’m hoping that one day there’s a plan that covers my $79 gym membership.

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