Saturday, February 7, 2009

Health Reform, Prevention and the "Savings" Debate

Disease prevention and health promotion has taken some hits recently on the grounds that it doesn't save money. Health Affairs, the Congressional Budget Office and The Washington Post have all published studies or commentary contending that any savings realized through prevention is offset by the additional expenses incurred when people live longer.

Concerned that prevention could be dismissed as a important part of health reform efforts in Congress, members of the prevention community began pushing back recently. Partnership for Prevention commissioned a white paper from some of the nation's leading authorities on prevention and public health who made the economic case for prevention. One of the authors of that paper, Steven H. Woolf, MD, MPH, of Virginia Commonwealth University, then summarized that paper in a commentary that appeared in the Feb. 4 issue of JAMA. Partnership and the WellPoint Foundation then held congressional briefings on Capitol Hill on Feb. 4 in which Woolf was joined by Partnership Interim President Corinne G. Husten and Marc Manley, MD, Medical Director and Vice President at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota.

Their conclusions: some preventive measures save money and some don't, but many provide enormous value in terms of health benefits per dollar spent. It is this value - translated into the ability to stem the increase in chronic diseases that are driving health costs upward - that need to be more closely considered as we seek to reform the health care system. And that should apply to medical treatments as well.

The briefing was recorded and can be watched online by clicking the TV set pictured on the right.


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