A simple premise: individuals cost the American healthcare system more once they are sick. And today in the United States, the most common illnesses — and the ones that are the primary drivers of rising health costs – are chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called chronic disease “the public health challenge of the 21st century.”
So as Congress continues to debate the balance between access to affordable healthcare, controlling healthcare costs, and encouraging personal responsibility, members should consider the pivotal role played by prevention. No matter what coverage mechanisms Congress chooses to implement, healthcare costs will continue to rise unless we invest in prevention.
Diabetes provides a perfect example. From 1988 to 2014, the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S rose by 274 percent. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 30 million Americans have diabetes, with at least another 86 million perched on the tipping point of the disease with pre-diabetes.
More worrisome, a full 90 percent of those with pre-diabetes are unaware they have the condition. People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year. In fact, people with diagnosed diabetes spend an average of 2.3 times on their healthcare than they would have in the absence of diabetes and one out of every three dollars spent in Medicare is spent on a beneficiary with diabetes.