A picture worth a thousand words

Last week, the publication of three short health care reports caught my eye. Separately, each is a “bad-news-as-usual” snapshot of health concerns; spliced together, however, they create a bigger, grimmer picture of the health and financial future of our country.

First, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that between 1995 and 2010, the incidence of adults diagnosed with diabetes has almost doubled.

Part of the rate increase is explained by improved diagnosis and diabetics living longer, but the report’s authors concluded that the “major driver” is that “the increase in diabetes prevalence coincides with the increase in obesity prevalence across the United States.” In other words, we are sicker because we are fatter.

Secondly, the United Health Foundation published its 2012 America’s Health Ranking annual report, which concluded that although Americans are living longer, unnecessarily high levels of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and sedentary life styles continue to seriously weigh down (pun intended) our nation’s health and economy. In other words, we are sicker and fatter because we don’t exercise.

Lastly, the Commonwealth Fund reported–as if we didn’t already know–that our health insurance premiums have risen on average 62% since 2003 (Heck, mine have done that in the last two years alone!).

The report also found that our deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays have increased significantly.

The Commonwealth Fund supports the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but projects that despite the ACA reforms, health insurance costs will continue to increase at a higher rate than family income over the next ten years.

The reality of health insurance is that the more we spend as a nation on chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity and high blood pressure, the more our premiums will increase. In other words, because we are sick, fat and don’t exercise, it costs us–a lot.

Many individuals and communities are promoting healthy lifestyles–diet, exercise, non smoking–not only to improve our nation’s health, but to decrease health care spending. However, our efforts are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.

In the words of Reed Tuckson, M.D., medical adviser to the United Health Foundation:

While we are blessed with an extraordinary armamentarium of medical technology interventions, the medical treatment of illnesses is becoming more costly and unaffordable with each passing day. Unfortunately, as a result of our failure to optimally prevent illness and promote health, we are experiencing an ever expanding number of people who are living with preventable chronic illnesses that require treatment in an ever more expensive care delivery system. This is simply incompatible with the best interests of individuals and our society. We must do more to tackle the preventable risk factors for disease such as a persistently high level of tobacco use and the dramatic escalations in diabetes and obesity.

Easier said than done.


Frugal Nurse


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