Saturday, May 31, 2008

Harrowing Healthcare Costs part two

In my May 14 post I cited some statistics about the price Americans pay for healthcare. Here, in part two, I present the return on our investment.

American healthcare costs a lot but at least we’re healthy, right?

Sure, if by “healthy” you mean “an average BMI of 28 and counting.” (25 = overweight, according to the CDC). A study published in Health Affairs earlier this year reported that the US ranks last among the 19 leading industrial countries in preventable deaths from treatable diseases. The number one country in the study was France, which spends roughly half what the US does on health care per person.

And if you’re among America’s many un- or underinsured, the likelihood you’re receiving good health care is further reduced. The harm is felt not only by uninsured individuals but by the whole community. Researchers from the University of Texas-Pan American last month published their findings that women living in communities with high uninsurance rates are substantially less likely to undergo mammography screening. Nationally, about 48 percent of uninsured women receive recommended mammograms, compared with 75 percent of insured women.

“Rx for Health”
The non-profit New England Healthcare Institute published a report called “Rx for Health” earlier this year. It emphasizes improved management of chronic diseases, redesigning primary care and lots of prevention. I say “A-men.” I don’t dismiss the value of cutting waste from medical spending and taking thoughtful steps toward setting guidelines for the use of technology. But let’s also invest in prevention programs, mental health treatment, smoking cessation and screening for hypertension. I'd rather live in a “Nanny State” than an “Undertaker State.”

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