Healthcare Business News

Better data needed on preventive health spending: GAO

By Paul Barr
Posted: January 7, 2013 - 6:00 pm ET

HHS and the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments could improve their reporting on estimated cost savings and cost-effectiveness of federal spending on preventive health activities, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

The authors of the 45-page report, requested by Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), wrote that additional information on the cost savings and effectiveness of preventive health spending would be useful for policymakers to have, given the increased attention such programs have received. Preventive services include such things as immunizations provided in clinical settings and health education media campaigns.

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The report notes that the three departments were able to provide only a mix of information regarding preventive health spending costs, and even this data had limitations. "These limitations included incomplete estimates, estimates that included activities that were prevention-related but not specifically for clinical preventive services or community-oriented preventive health activities, and estimates that represented funding—not spending—information," according to the report. In addition, HHS' tabulation did not include programs from the sizable programs under the CMS, according to the report.

Reaction could not be obtained from Baucus and Levin. Levin is traveling in the Middle East, according to a spokeswoman.

Harkin said he was pleased that the GAO issued the report, which “identified some of the most cost-effective prevention initiatives, and outlined ways in which data collection related to prevention can be improved," according to a statement e-mailed by a spokeswoman.

HHS and VA provided technical comments in response to a draft of the report, while the Defense Department concurred with the draft, according to the GAO.

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