Republicans have hatched a health care plan that will bring down costs dramatically. It's called "Die Young." It mainly targets the poor.
Democrats have a plan, too. It's called "Appoint a Commission of Experts; They'll Know What to Do." Although less effective than the GOP model at lowering costs, it has the great advantage of sparing politicians difficult votes.
Both are disappointing.
Never fear. I, too, have a plan. It's modest, universal and foolproof. If the nation were to embrace it, we'd not only cut health care costs in half, but our budget deficit would also shrink to the equivalent of spare change.
This is my plan: Stay healthy.
That's it. The whole plan. Just imagine if people started to take long walks instead of downing handfuls of pills each day. Suppose they ate real food instead of the toxic waste dished up by fast food restaurants and marketed by processed food conglomerates. Think what would happen if we began teaching our children that foods other than sugar taste pretty good, once you get used to them.
What if we started spending as much money and effort on being well as we do now on getting sick?
Pretty soon you'd have cardiologists wandering the streets with portable blood-pressure machines, offering to give you a reading for a quarter.
You'd have treatment centers full of dialysis machines that nobody needs to use. .
You'd have giant cancer clinics with their terrifying machines looking as abandoned as a Detroit auto plant.
All that and more is within our grasp. It wouldn't involve government at any level or the socialization of medicine. Neither would it interfere with the sacred doctor-patient relationship nor pay tribute to an insurance company.
It's voluntary, constitutional and smart.
You're probably skeptical. I don't blame you. I was, too, until I read a book called "The China Study." It's written by T. Colin Campbell, a giant in the field of nutritional research, and his son, Thomas Campbell II.
The book lays out the results of a lifetime of research on diet as it relates to disease, especially cancer. At the center of "The China Study" is a joint Chinese-Western effort that is the largest and most comprehensive such study ever attempted.
The results were nothing short of startling.
They found that animal fats and protein — milk included — tend to make you sick. Vegetables make you well.
Studies confirmed that even if massive amounts of carcinogens were fed to rats and mice, they didn't produce much cancer — until animal protein was added to the diet.
Think on that. Our air, water and food supplies are being corrupted with cancer-causing materials every day. But the study indicates that combining those materials with protein from meat and dairy products increases the risk of cancer.
Campbell also describes studies indicating that a plant-based diet has a preventive effect on diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, a rigid plant-based diet was found to roll back those diseases.
The answer to health, then, seems to lie in becoming a vegan — someone who eats only food derived from plants.
I've just lost you, haven't I? A plant-only diet sounds like the latest fad taken up by Hollywood celebrities.
It isn't. There's strong scientific evidence that it provides a way to a long and healthy life that doesn't end prematurely in a hospital bed with a dozen tubes attached to your wasted body.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not advising you to become a vegan. It's a hard life, particularly if you're not an inventive cook. A vegetarian meal can sometimes taste good, but eating out is often a challenge.
But remember this. There are a thousand ways to die, and every one of them has a lobbyist working for it in Washington.
You are the only lobbyist working for No. 1.
Read "The China Study." It could change your life.
OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. This column was distributed through OtherWords.org, a project for the Institute of Policy Studies.