Group Touts Importance of Chronic Disease Care in Health Reform
Some health care experts have sought to convince presidential candidates to include preventive care and disease management provisions for chronic diseases in their health care proposals, saying that such efforts could reduce annual health care spending by $100 billion to $125 billion, the McClatchy/Kansas City Star reports.
According to experts, such savings that could help fund an expansion of health insurance to more residents.
Chronic diseases -- such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity -- account for 75% of U.S. health care spending, but patients with such diseases receive only 56% of the preventive care recommended for their conditions.
Kenneth Thorpe, chair of the Emory University Department of Health Policy and Management; former Surgeon General Richard Carmona; and former CMS Administrator Mark McClellan have established the Partnership To Fight Chronic Disease -- a bipartisan coalition of health, public interest and business organizations -- to raise awareness about health care spending for chronic diseases in states with early presidential primaries and caucuses.
Thorpe also has consulted with Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), and the candidates "all appear to have heeded his message," the Star reports.
Thorpe said, "We're trying to jump-start the debate about health care reform in a more productive way that doesn't just initially go into the political bickering over how to pay for it" (Pugh, McClatchy/Kansas City Star, 7/26).
Chronic diseases account for much of annual health care spending, and such conditions "often can be well-managed and costs contained when physicians, patients, employers and insurers all pull in one direction -- promoting and embracing healthy lifestyles," Merrill Matthews, director of the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, writes in a Washington Times opinion piece.
"In the growing political debate over how to reform" the health care system, lawmakers should not ignore that "such a small percentage accounts for the vast majority of expenditures," Matthews writes. According to Matthews, "patient compliance is a real problem" because only "about 50% of patients take their medication as directed," but the "percentage can increase sharply when patients are actively monitored." He adds that preventive care and wellness programs can reduce the severity of many chronic diseases.
In addition, Matthews writes that lawmakers, health care providers and health care payers should "look for ways to provide incentives for good behavior," such as the reduction or elimination of copayments for some medications for chronic diseases. He writes, "If we really want to lower health care spending and improve care ... it will take proactive steps on the part of health care providers, employers, insurers and, ultimately, patients" (Matthews, Washington Times, 7/27).