Like many of you, I’ve spent the past couple weeks scanning news sites and listening to the television and radio, bracing myself for the next business collapse. Like many of you, my stomach churns when I think of the hit we took on Monday when the Dow dropped a staggering amount.
When I first heard about the proposed $700 billion bailout, my reaction was along the lines of, “Where’s the urgency and where’s the money for health care?”
How about you?
Against the backdrop of recent months where, despite paying a lot for health insurance, the bills are piling up while the range of services covered has steadily decreased and the thought of cutting back on tests and medicines to save money is fleeting yet tantalizing, this juxtaposition was—and is—particularly compelling.
While the financial crisis looms large and spans so many industries, livelihoods, retirement plans, and households, we’re already in the midst of what is arguably an even larger crisis, one of healthcare and chronic disease. And, as former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and Dr. Kenneth Thorpe of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease discussed in a press conference call I participated in yesterday, it’s a crisis that threatens billions of taxpayer dollars—not to mention our health and quality of life.
Just as I can relate to the ensuing credit crunch and the aftermath of the market’s volatility because I own a house and a car and have retirement accounts tied up in stocks, I can clearly relate to this crisis. In my own circumstances I’ve seen how much more effective and economical preventative care (chest PT, for example) is, and access to quality health insurance is the most significant financial and lifestyle issue in our household.
A healthy population and healthy workforce equal more productivity and a better economy. Better health and wellness (though I could write an entire post on what exactly “wellness” means) are achieved through prevention and disease education. While this should be obvious and should be reflected in health policy, as most of us 130 million patients with chronic disease know too well, this isn’t often the case.
Just to give some context, consider some of the chronic disease statistics Thompson and Dr. Thorpe mention and ones that appear often in this discussion:
--Treatment of chronic illness accounts for over 75 percent of the more than $2.2 trillion the nation spends annually on health
--Treatment of the seven most common chronic diseases, coupled with productivity losses, cost the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion dollars annually
--Health care costs for people with a chronic condition average $6,032 annually - five times higher than for those without such a condition
And of course, these are just some of the numbers. We can’t forget about the millions who are uninsured, the many, many patients with inadequate health insurance, and the economic, physical, and emotional toll chronic disease takes on caregivers and family members.
But as we’re beginning to see in pockets, wellness and prevention programs do work—they improve health outcomes and disease progression and cut down on consumer and employer spending.
So while we can’t avoid Wall Street woes, we also can’t lose sight of the fact that this is an economic situation that’s been building for decades. One of the most interesting questions posed yesterday in the conference had to do with when we would see a “$700 billion moment” in terms of health care. News flash: millions of people are already living those moments already (and have for a long time), and millions of people can speak to the urgency of the situation.
The good news is that despite their vast differences (more on that later, I promise!), both presidential candidates’ platforms address chronic illness and prevention and wellness. Maybe this election will be the time when all the “billion dollar moments” and the urgency so many of us feel will translate into results…and like this current financial debacle, it will have to happen across party lines.
Switching gears, I want to point out that September’s Pain-Blog Carnival is up at How To Cope With Pain. Check it out, and remember that new contributors are always welcome!