Last week two health care experts sounded the alarm that health care may be the next national meltdown on the same scale as the banking industry. Former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Kenneth Thorpe, PhD of the executive director of the Emory Institute for Advanced Policy Solutions and former deputy assistant of policy at HHS under Clinton, met with reporters via teleconference warning that the crisis in banking may be what looms ahead for health care.
“We have got to find ways … to slow the growth in both Medicare and Medicaid,” Thorpe said. “We’ve got to find ways in the private sector to make health care more affordable for working families and for businesses. Otherwise, despite the talk about universal coverage, nobody will be able to afford health care in this country 10 to 15 years from now.”
Speaking for the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease the two noted that Medicare will begin to go broke in 2012. Seventy-five to eighty percent of Medicare’s costs go to the management of chronic disease. Ninety-five percent of Medicare spending goes to those with chronic illness. Chronic disease will only become as greater burden to Medicare. As an example Thompson noted there are 21 million diabetics but 41 million prediabetics. Over next 5 years diabetes management will increase in cost from $145 billion to $400 billion. We need to become more efficient and more effective in managing these problems if we are going to have a solvent health care system.
Reporters were somewhat skeptical whether are not health care had reached a crisis stage in the minds of American and Thorpe conceded that health care has, “always polled as a three or four issue. It’s a chronic problem.”
Thompson and Thorpe recommended government play a more active role in standardizing health information technology to improve communication between programs and that it must also be involved in making these technologies more affordable to health care providers. They spoke of the importance of primary care in any prevention/chronic disease centered health care system and believed in the concept of the medical home .
Thorpe argued for breaking down the traditional walls of what is considered “health care” in order to more effectively manage and prevent chronic disease, “if you go to our Website, fightchronicdisease.org, we put together practices, both school-based interventions, community-based interventions, workplace interventions that have been demonstrated to save money and improve healthcare outcomes.”
As I’ve written many times in The Country Doc Report, the health care reform issue should not be about financing the current health care system, it’s focus should be re-designing and re-organizing it in a rational way that promotes health and in turn saves money. When we can prevent and effective treat chronic disease we will make health more affordable for all.