Friday, August 14, 2009

Comparing Facts in Health Reform

From the television ads and late night comedy sketches to the daily headlines about “death panels”and colorful town hall meetings, it’s obvious the dialogue surrounding health care reform is as contentious as ever.

But what about the substance of the actual proposals, which seems somewhat lost in all of the rhetoric? Chronic illness is a huge factor in reform, which is why I listened in with interest to a press call announcing Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease’s release of “Hitting the ‘Bulls-eye’ in Health Reform: Controlling Chronic Disease to Reduce Cost and Improve Quality.” The document is a side-by-side comparison of the bills and offers five recommendations for how Congress could control costs through chronic disease prevention.

You can access the publication by clicking here.

As the PFCD’s Dr. Kenneth Thorpe pointed out during the press call, looking at the big picture there are two major sets of issues involved in the health care debate: slowing down health care spending and improving quality, and providing insurance coverage to the millions of uninsured Americans. While the latter is hugely important, with the release of this document the PFCD is focusing on the first set of issues, which affect the chronic disease population in significant ways.

Thorpe characterized the current proposals a “good start” but said the idea would be that Congress would come back in the fall and build on this foundation and offer more aggressive solutions. As such, the report identifies five areas to target, many of which are familiar to us by now: prevention, better coordination of care, reduction of administrative costs, etc.

One thing I was really pleased to hear relates to disease prevention. Of course, we all know the best way to reduce disease expenditures is to prevent conditions from developing in the first place, and there are many specific ideas relating to that. As I’ve written before, when it comes to health care and existing chronic illness, prevention is often more a question of preventing progression than anything else. As such, I paid particular attention when Dr. Thorpe said we need to make sure we’re allowing patients to manage their own conditions and we need to remove barriers that stop them from doing that. His examples included getting hypertension re-checked or following up with blood sugar testing with doctors to prevent long-terms complications like amputations, but my mind went immediately to the types of long-term therapies (like chest PT) that keep patients like me out of the hospital.

The side-by-side comparison of proposals is really quite helpful, so make sure you click on over and go through the information yourself.

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