Monday, September 21, 2009

In a column in the Los Angeles Times, former Senate Republican Leader Bill Friest says true health reform has to emphasize behavior-changing wellness programs.

"The major determinants of health are not doctors, hospitals, universal insurance, public plans and expanded health services," says Frist, who is also a heart surgeon. "Much more significant is behavior -- things such as diet, exercise, smoking and drinking -- basic education and socioeconomic status. So if the goal is to make us healthier, to lower the burden and thus the societal costs of disease, policymakers in Washington must actively promote health and wellness. And the way to do that is by providing incentives for the implementation and sustained use of employer-backed wellness programs. "

Frist said prevention has been written off as costly due to reports like one that appeared recently in Health Affairs subtitled: "An Overwhelming Percentage of Preventive Interventions Add More to Medical Costs Than They Save."

"The key word is 'interventions,'" Frist says. "Think about it: Having more people getting more health screenings, mammograms, pap smears and colonoscopies has to cost more money.While we want such services to be widely available, reform that concentrates merely on offering more of those things isn't the way to fix what ails the nation.

"Instead, we need a system that concentrates on keeping us well, so we need less "healthcare" and fewer "preventive interventions" in the first place."


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