Presidential Candidates To Include Chronic Disease Management In Health Care Proposals

Armen Hareyan's picture

Chronic diseases -- such as diabetes, heartdisease, cancer and obesity -- account for 75% of U.S. health carespending, but patients with such diseases receive only 56% of thepreventive care recommended for their conditions, the McClatchy/Kansas City Starreports. According to experts, efforts to address the issue couldreduce annual health care spending by $100 billion to $125 billion,savings that could help fund an expansion of health insurance to moreresidents.

In response, some experts have sought to convincepresidential candidates to include preventive care and diseasemanagement provisions in their health care proposals. 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 businessorganizations -- to raise awareness about health care spending forchronic diseases in states with early presidential primaries andcaucuses.

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 Starreports. Thorpe said, "We're trying to jump-start the debate abouthealth care reform in a more productive way that doesn't just initiallygo into the political bickering over how to pay for it" (Pugh, McClatchy/Kansas City Star, 7/26).


Opinion Piece

Chronic diseases account for much of annual health care spending, andsuch conditions "often can be well-managed and costs contained whenphysicians, 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.

"Inthe growing political debate over how to reform" the health caresystem, lawmakers should not ignore that "such a small percentageaccounts for the vast majority of expenditures," Matthews writes.According to Matthews, "patient compliance is a real problem" becauseonly "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 theseverity of many chronic diseases.

In addition, Matthewswrites that lawmakers, health care providers and health care payersshould "look for ways to provide incentives for good behavior," such asthe reduction or elimination of copayments for some medications forchronic diseases. He writes, "If we really want to lower health carespending and improve care ... it will take proactive steps on the partof health care providers, employers, insurers and, ultimately,patients" (Matthews, Washington Times, 7/27).

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