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Congress is now on its annual August break, so call, write, e-mail, visit and express your thoughts!

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Americans made a difference with dietary supplements/DSHEA. It’s time once again to tell legislators to preserve our healthcare freedom of choice.

As federal lawmakers start their month-long summer break, they return to their home districts, where voters have increasingly expressed concern about the cost and scope of healthcare reform legislation. It is critical to make sure that members of Congress know where you stand on these issues, so visit your elected officials’ local offices (you’ll find the addresses online or in the blue pages of the phone book) and deliver a letter expressing your wish to retain healthcare freedom of choice.
For 40 years, the United States has experienced government-run healthcare in the form of Medicare and Medicaid. With the cost of Medicaid threatening many states’ fiscal security and Medicare expected to break the federal budget in the near future, a new government report offers fresh insight into how well Medicare and Medicaid work to provide healthcare.
Of all visits to emergency rooms in 2006, 42 percent were made by patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid. But as is well known, the ER is the least efficient method of providing family-practice care.
If you have read Dr. John Abramson’s book Overdosed America, published in 2004, you already know the message of this award-winning Harvard family practitioner: that family practice is the front line in educating consumers to make wise lifestyle choices, dramatically reducing the risk of expensive chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. More importantly, family practice can counter the practice of “disease mongering” whereby patients are treated on the basis of test results with new “normals” for cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and the like.
According to Dr. Gilbert Welch, the Dartmouth educator who wrote Should I Be Tested for Cancer? Maybe Not and Here’s Why, the American medical industry has come up with an answer to its own question: “What constitutes health?” Echoing Dr. Clifton Meador, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, Welch states: “Health is the absence of abnormality.”
Dr. Meador defines a well person as a patient who is not completely worked up. Dr. Welch points out, “Finding more abnormalities has been a great strategy for our industry. But it has been a disaster for health-care costs.”
Consumers are savvy. They know the frustration of hearing, “Your test results are normal,” while protesting, “But Doc, I don’t feel well.” They experience the medical errors, the side effects even of drugs properly prescribed, the interactions of medications never tested in conjunction with each other, the five-minute office visit and the staggering costs that drive many to bankruptcy. A battle over who will pay for Americans’ healthcare will not solve the more fundamental dilemma: that our current system fails to support family practitioners and integrative whole-patient practitioners.
Treating symptoms has not made Americans live longer or better. It’s time to redefine health and support the practitioners who work every day to move their patients toward better health.

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