Monday, August 3, 2009

Prevention and Health Promotion Could Save Medicare $1.4 Trillion Over 10 Years

“Government health promotion and prevention programs for pre-Medicare and Medicare populations could save the country as much as $1.4 trillion over 10 years—and add on average as many as 6 years on Medicare beneficiaries' lives, according to a new Center for Health Research at Healthways report. ‘In this report, we clearly showed that you can, in fact, reduce risk and this does increase life expectancy, but you can still achieve savings over the course of a lifetime,’ says Elizabeth Rula, PhD, lead researcher at the CHR. With baby boomers reaching Medicare age, the Medicare population is expected to jump from 45 million to nearly 80 million by 2030. Couple that fact with the healthcare reform debate in Washington and one can see why healthcare thought leaders and policymakers are searching for programs and savings to bend the healthcare cost curve. The model found that the government spends an average of $174,000 per beneficiary over the course of a life in the program. In other words, the 37.5 million seniors in Medicare fee-for-service in 2005 will cost $6.5 trillion over their lifetimes. The researchers found a range of potential savings through a combination of health promotion, prevention, and chronic care management initiatives before and after the age of 65. The gross savings estimates ranged between $652 billion and $1.4 trillion over 10 years (in 2008 dollars). Though the savings projected are gross and not net savings, Wilkins says that costs of these wellness and prevention programs should not eclipse more than 30% of the savings. The researchers did not have any specific prevention and disease management programs in mind, but they suggested some examples, such as smoking cessation, cardiac disease management, and health club memberships for older adults with diabetes. Anne Wilkins, executive vice president, chief strategy officer at Healthways, says the programs could be split into three categories: keeping healthy people healthy; helping people with modifiable lifestyle risks, such as being overweight and lacking physical activity, change their behaviors; and assisting people who already have health conditions, such as diabetes, better manage their conditions.”

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