With a continued focus on the need to control the high and rising cost of care, Congress is looking for low cost, high yield policy solutions. Chronic illnesses are among the biggest drivers of growing health care costs, and a drain on worker productivity in our nation. For example, researchers note that per person health care spending for obese adults is 56 percent higher than for normal-weight adults. Diabetes and other chronic illnesses can be prevented or greatly delayed with solutions beyond or outside of medical care. Many fall into the category of health-related behaviors, such as whether we smoke, get exercise, eat a healthy diet– factors that are newly falling into the spheres of public health or population health.
Researchers have found that doing any ONE of three things — expanding health insurance coverage, improving the quality of care, or expanding community and behavioral prevention — was valuable for saving lives, but with some added costs in the first 10 years. But of those three, community prevention was the ONLY intervention that saved lives and money in the long run to the tune of four and a half million lives and nearly $600 billion over 25 years.
Innovative public health initiatives are attracting businesses, improving workplace wellness, and providing a spark to local economies, but is there evidence that public health investments can help prevent chronic disease and reduce escalating health care costs? And how does CBO view these with regard to cutting the deficit and/or affecting long-term costs/savings to the health care system? What can we learn from our experience with tobacco cessation programs? Have initiatives on the local level been effective? How can public health efforts intersect with clinical care? What new initiatives are being designed on the state level? Are these being supported by federal policy and federal funds?
To address these questions and more, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored a July 13 briefing. Panelists were: Ursula Bauer, CDC National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; Thomas Farley, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Matthew Myers, Tobacco-Free Kids Campaign; and Linda Bilheimer, Congressional Budget Office. Ed Howard of the Alliance moderated.
Dr. Bilheimer of the Congressional Budget Office discussed a new CBO in-depth analysis showing how one type of health intervention — reducing smoking — could impact federal deficits for the next 50 years, in addition to saving lives. The study is important since to do it, CBO analyzed a number of long-range and secondary factors, such as productivity increases.
Full Transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)