Advocates of preventive care and chronic-disease management in Washington uniformly called on policymakers and legislators to make health reform a top priority, primarily with a focus on keeping people healthy rather than treating them after theyre sick.
John Clymer, president of the Partnership for Prevention, said that the U.S. spends 95 cents out of every healthcare dollar on treating disease after it occursand less than 5 cents on keeping people healthy.
Its the result of perverse incentives that have developed over time in our health system so that peoplewhether they are providers of healthcare or consumers of healthcareare making rational economic decisions for themselves by putting the emphasis on treating disease after it occurs, he said.
As an example, Clymer sited a study that showed that physicians get reimbursed more to trim a patients toenails than they do for counseling that person to quit smoking. Tobacco use, he said, causes 435,000 premature deaths annually, with poor diet, physical inactivity and alcohol use combining for 197,000 more. Nearly all of those are preventable, he said.
Kenneth Thorpe, executive director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, said that the Medicare program, as it stands now, is ill-equipped to handle chronically ill patientsmany of whom have become sick because of a combination of those problems. He said the Medicare reimbursement system is outdated, causing a highly disproportionate share of dollars going to the treatment of patients with multiple illnesses rather than to preventing them from occurring in the first place. -- by Matthew DoBias