The Affordable Care Act: Preventing Chronic Diseases
Did you knowthat switching the focus from treating chronic illnesses to preventing the diseases will not only improve the health of individuals and families all over the country, but will also rein in health care costs and strengthen the economy?
What’s more is that the cost of chronic health conditions goes beyond the money spent on health care services. The toll these illnesses take on our workforce productivity is telling. According to the Gallup Poll, 7 out of 8, or 83 percent of American workers either have a chronic health condition or are obese. The poll estimates that this prevalence of chronic illness and obesity in our workers could be costing our economy $153 billion a year in lost productivity due to increased sick days. Other reports that take into account other chronic conditions and factors like lost productivity from workers who show up on the job while sick estimate that chronic health conditions are costing the United States more than $1 trillion each year in lost economic activity. To bring these statistics home, chronic disease plaguing Illinois’s workforce cost the state $14.3 billion in lost productivity. And the commonality of chronic disease is rapidly increasing. It is estimated that the number of Americans living with a chronic health condition will increase by 36%, or 46 million people by the year 2030, and that we could be spending $685 billion a year on medical treatment for chronic disease by 2020. Other sources estimate the total economic toll of chronic health conditions to reach $6 trillion a year by the middle of the century.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. As the CDC states, “Access to high-quality and affordable prevention measures (including screening and appropriate follow-up) are essential steps in saving lives, reducing disability and lowering costs for medical care.” And research has proven that for every dollar invested in effective prevention and public health initiatives, $5.60 is saved. The same study reveals that, if we invest $10 per person every year in effective community-based public health programs, we could save the United States more than $16 billion in just five years.
Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act recognizes the benefits to be had from investing in smart and effective preventive and public health efforts. The ACA established the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), made up of secretaries from various federal departments and chaired by the Surgeon General. The Council is responsible for developing our first ever National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy, which was released in June of 2011 and identifies four strategic directions for preventing disease and improving health nationwide. The four strategic directions are: creating healthy and safe community environments; expanding access to quality clinical and community preventive health service; empowering people to make healthy choices; and eliminating health disparities. The Council is charged with providing leadership moving forward with the National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy.
So what does all of this mean for chronic disease in Illinois? Already, the State of Illinois has received $17.14 million out of the Prevention and Public Health Fund to support community- and state-level wellness and prevention programs aimed at preventing chronic disease and raising awareness about healthy living. For a breakdown of what programs received funding and for how much, visit HealthCare.gov online.
The Secretary of HHS will continue to issue funds for prevention and public health programs across the country to reverse the trend of chronic disease, so stay tuned as health reform continues to make a positive impact in our communities. To find out what other kinds of initiatives the Affordable Care Act has taken to increase access to preventive health measures and decrease illness in America, visit the Shriver Brief online.
This post was originally posted on The Shriver Brief by Caitlin Padula. It is part of a weekly “Did You Know” blog series that highlights important, but not well known features of the health reform law about prevention, wellness, and personal responsibility for our health.