You would have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the debate going on regarding our nation's health care system. For those of you that know me, I think you know my views on the whole issue. For those that don't know me, suffice to say that there is no way I am putting my or my children's health in the hands of our government - regardless of who is President.

What I wanted to bring up though, is something that has challenged me in my own use of the health care system. There are very few people who think our health care system is working and doesn't need some type of reform. I know I have been annoyed and frustrated with the system and my insurance company many times. The hardest thing to deal with on a daily/monthly/annual basis is the rising cost of health insurance. If you haven't taken the time to look at your paycheck stub and see how much money is taken out of your salary for medical insurance, you should really make that a priority. It's a pretty good chunk of change. I know I have complained about rising costs. But I didn't feel responsible for those rising costs. I am healthy, thank the Lord. I don't spend a lot of time at the doctor...which makes it all the more annoying to watch the price of my insurance creep up. But then I decided that I needed to think about my use of the health care system from a different perspective: what would I do differently if I wasn't insured?

Well, for starters, I wouldn't want to HAVE to go to the doctor. So I would make a more concerted effort to keep myself healthy. Maybe I'd eat a little less, exercise a little more, take those daily vitamins, not take unnecessary risks.

Inevitably, I would have to go to the doctor. When that happens, I would call around to different doctors and find out what they charge for their services. I would try to get the best care for my money. If the doctor prescribed something for me, I would ask for the generic version instead of the brand name. I would distinguish between what was necessary for me to be healthy and what was simply recommended. I would refuse any tests that weren't absolutely necessary.

I have two children, and because we've had insurance, I've always followed the check-up schedule perfectly...until now. I realized what a waste of money and time most of those check-ups are. For those not familiar, the check-up schedule starts with a visit at 1-week old, then 1 month old, 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 months old, 9 months old, 1 year, 15 months, 18 months, 2 year, 3 year, 4 year, etc. I am not against going to those first 2 or 3 check-ups - especially for first time moms. They provide some piece of mind that things are going well, and it's important to make sure the newborn is thriving and getting enough to eat. But here I was, with my second child, ready to go to her 9 month check-up so that I could find out how much she weighs, how tall she is, how giant her head is, and give her a trillion few shots. I had absolutely no concerns about her eating or her development, and I was confident that she was healthy. Then I realized that the 20 minute check-up I was going to take her to costs almost $500. At least that is what the office bills my insurance. So I canceled the appointment. There is really no need for it. Yes, she is missing some of her scheduled vaccinations - but that is a good thing from my point of view, and she'll get some of them next time - so no worries.

All that rambling to say that I have been challenged. If I'm going to complain about rising health care costs, I am going to do my best to not contribute to it. I'm not suggesting that this will fix the system, but it clears my conscience. I think we've all gotten so lazy and irresponsible with our health. We go to the doctor or the E.R. for the smallest thing. We get an antibiotic "just in case". We authorize a bunch of unneeded tests because they're covered by our insurance. We get a prescription for the name brand we saw on the commercial. We don't think about what we eat, what we drink, or our exercise because the doctor will deal with it, or there is probably a pill we can take.

It is not the government's job to keep us healthy - they just want control. It's not the insurance company's job to care about us - they are still a business at the end of the day - not a humanitarian aid group. It's our job to care about our own health. Step one is to start using some common sense.