In January of 2007, after nearly thirty years of working with the Science Museum of Minnesota, I not only walked away from a memorable job, but I was cutting our household lifeline to health benefits. No more easy six month dental check ups, no more running to the clinic when a persistent cough urged me to make an appointment. Consequently for over two years, Nancy and I have chosen to gamble and participate in the Larger than Life Health Plan.

Formally, we are covered under a catastrophic health insurance plan—more formally known as a High Deductible Health Plan. This plan lowers overall medical costs by providing a lower monthly premium in exchange for a higher annual health insurance deductible. We pay out-of-pocket for most medical bills until the total of payments reaches the amount of our annual deductible of approximately $11,000.

The high deductible insurance we purchased is intended to protect us in the event of costly and catastrophic health services. We are responsible for the not-so-catastrophic. While it would be easy to wallow in the place of fear and keep ourselves locked in a padded room stocked with food and water, we have found it more healthy to act in the contrary and breathe big.

Though we are sitting North of 60°, in the evil den of socialist Canada, more than 2000 miles north of our home in Minnesota, we are not closed off from the loud southerly ruckus debating health care in the “Excited States of America.” The discussion mostly frustrates and infuriates me, as the debate seems to fall in line with the usual bipartisanship whining. And through all the discussion of “becoming Europeanized or socialized” we, the supposedly greatest nation in the world, continue our unhealthy ranking of #37 in health care among all the countries in the world.

I wondered if the problem lies in the fact that our North American culture has become beset with insecurity. Or at least the machine of consumption would like you to believe that you are a pathetic and insecure mass of protoplasm and could break out of that dismal form if you only used their products. So in our depression and eternal chase for ‘beauty and success’ we keep eating and buying stuff.

Could it be that our unhealthy ranking is largely due to unhealthy practices? In a recent Op-Ed piece published in the New York Times, author Michael Pollan reported, “according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases.” Not all of these diseases are linked to diet — there’s smoking, for instance — but many, if not most, of them are.

We’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care.”

So in search for my own answers on this national dilemma. I took off for a mountain bike ride where after eight or so miles, I would stash the bike and begin hiking up the gilded slope and into the reddening alpine. I scrambled up the steep slope and in short order had to jettison a lyaer of closthes and stow them in my day pack. Pausing to wipe my brow I drank deeply from my water bottle. . . .chilled water taken directly from the clear flow of the Watson River. I munched  on fresh blueberries and lingonberries and moose jerky that we had dried over the wood burning stove the previous winter. It was during one of those hiking halts that it suddenly occurred to me  that the best health plan is one I call the Larger than Life Health Plan.

Let me explain the title. As you enter the Yukon from one of the three highways, you encounter a large, handsomely designed sign. There is an image of a sun rising from behind a range of mountains. The sign welcomes you to the YUKON.’ The brief, but beckoning message in both English and French is hard to forget. It says, “Larger than Life.” Obviously Yukon tourism lavishly uses that compelling phrase and now I have lifted if for my health plan.

The Larger than Life (LTL) Health Plan is really simple. It costs only a few hours of your time and is more of an investment than a cost. I can summarize the policy provisions in four words: “Get off your ass (GOYA).”

Subset to the summary include:

1) Get outside and move your body often and vigorously.

2) Eat good healthy food, particularly organic food that is raised without any genetic modifications and best of all, raised close to your home.

3) Laugh abundantly and particularly with others.

4)Partake in music festivals and jams, even if you don’t play. Be sure to have room to dance in a lively manner. In other words make music even if you can’t.

5) Enthusiastically love someone or something alive.

6) Help someone or volunteer for a good cause that benefits someone less fortunate than you.

7) Fear can make a good dance partner at times. Don’t run from it.

9)Pause often, focus on the big breath and give thanks.

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