As the leader of a healthcare advocacy, I can assure you that there’s no such than as a living, breathing percentage. Humans have heartbeats, statistics don’t. Every person is an individual, with medical and mental health needs as unique as their fingerprints. Yet on a far too regular basis, statisticians and members of the medical community talk about how Americans don’t understand risk:( This begs the question: Is it that average American citizens don’t understand risk or that we simply don’t interpret and accept that risk in the same manner policy makers would like us to?

Calculator decisions regarding how many women need mammograms after the age of 50 based on mortality rates is, at its essence, inhumane. Buried in the cold profit and loss mathematics of whom should or shouldn’t have access to mammograms, prostate exams, colorectal screenings or a plethora of other life preserving tests/screenings are countless actual people who will die if they didn’t have access to early detection. Real, living breathing human beings who will be dead. How does a computer formula put a percent on that?

Who should have access to quality preventative care in America? I should. You should. And the person next to you on the bus should. And my parents should. And your Aunt Bessie should. And every other person should. I’m no math major, but I’m guessing 100% of Americans should have access to quality, affordable care. Preventative tests, screenings and procedures should be determined by patients and their doctors, not any other entity.

Sitting in a corporate high rise with an algorithm on the computer screen is convenient for policy makers and insurers, but life threatening for humans. What percentage should get preventative screenings? The last place we should look for answers is with the bookies in the healthcare industry. Are they the ones who should be determining who lives and dies in America? If an insurance company denies a test or screening or procedure that can affect someone’s life because of profit, it is operating well outside its competence.

By deciding who gets to have a mammogram and who doesn’t, policy makers and insurers are signing some women’s death certificates. That’s not conjecture, but according to the risk manager’s own statistical facts. The Affordable Care Act mandated women’s access to mammograms to save lives, not for profit.

We could run statistical data that says a certain percentage of Americans who never set foot in a doctor’s office will live until they’re 100, but still we probably wouldn’t advise anyone to skip their annual check-ups. Policy makers and insurers should not be the ones ultimately determining medical necessity, nor should it be left up to the P&L department of a hospital.

During the past several months, a variety of groups and individuals have quite vocally opposed the idea of mandated individual health insurance. Some say, “I’m healthy! The odds are in my favor I won’t need it!” So why must we carry automobile insurance? I myself could look back on the past few decades of auto insurance payments and feel like my unused policy was water down the drain. Instead, I choose to view it as a safety net for myself and my community.

Healthcare patients, in close cooperation with quality, trained physicians and other qualified healthcare providers, need ask themselves:

Does my doctor believe it would be beneficial for me?
Is it recommended/endorsed by the American Medical Association?
Is the test or procedure given at little to no risk to me? If there is risk involved, do we feel it is potential benefits outweigh it?
Will it give me a better chance at living a long, healthy life?

We encourage our clients to take full advantage of their access to care. Get your mammogram. Get your prostate exam. Get your colonoscopy when your doctor recommends it based on your age or if you’re in a high-risk group. Schedule your annual physical and ask the doctor to run all appropriate tests including necessary blood work.

People’s lives vs. percentages? This should never be no profit driven argument.