The Burden of Illness


Two-fifths of the population has one or more chronic conditions and collectively that consumes three-quarters of all the health dollars.

CQ HealthBeat reports in the week of July 28, 2008 that over the past 10 years:

  • There are 25% more working-age adults with chronic conditions,* yet these folks have less accessibility, even after controlling for socioeconomic differences.
  • 2/5 of the population has one or more chronic conditions and collectively that consumes 3/4 of all the health dollars spent over the time period

“A study published last week showed that investing $10 per person per year in community-based disease prevention, it could save more than $16 billion annually within five years.”

* Rates of hypertension, diabetes, emphysema, and cancer rates all increased statistically. Incidentally, those with chronic disease were older, college educated, unmarried, male and from racial or ethnic minority groups.

Below, a reader's response:

From: Harvey S. Frey, MD, PhD, JD

Subject: Re: [HARP Dialog] “The Burden of Illness”

Date: August 5, 2008 7:50:39 PM EDT

As stated above, you, referring to a Washington Health Policy Week in Review article, mention a study showing a huge return on investment for community-based disease prevention. I'd sure like to see the proof of that statement!

JGK's Response: A report from Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), entitled Prevention for a Healthier America: Investments in Disease Prevention Yield Significant Savings, Stronger Communities, “finds that an investment of $10 per person per year in proven community-based programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and prevent smoking and other tobacco use could save the country more than $16 billion annually within five years. This is a return of $5.60 for every $1 [invested].”

Harvey Frey continues: You have asked me to comment on “What, constructively, can one suggest for this new reality - if managed care, what then?” I suggest you reexamine my "New Model for Health Care Insurance," Risk-Sharing Fellowships (RSF). However, since that's too rational to likely be accepted, next best would be "Medicare for All", paid for out of current tax receipts. Government should either take over providing Medigap coverage itself, or raise the benefit level to make it unnecessary.

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