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What health reform means for the people of Illinois

A blog by IllinoisHealthMatters.org

Monday, October 15, 2012

Healthcare by the Numbers

In the United States in 2012:
  • Annual health care costs: $2.7 trillion
  • Percent of healthcare costs linked to individual behaviors: 70%
  • Cost of tobacco, alcohol, soda, illicit drugs, unsafe sex, sedentary lifestyle, etc: $1.89 trillion.
The numbers tell a story—of how much money we can save on medical spending if as a society, we find ways to change individuals’ risky health behaviors.

Fee for service reimbursements to doctors:

  • 5 minute cardiac stent: $1500
  • 45 minute behavioral counseling: $15
Current reimbursements favor intervention, not prevention. We pay big bucks for sick care not health care.

Average annual salary:

  • Interventional cardiologist: $320K
  • Family physician: $168K
  • Nutritionist: $53K
  • Athletic trainer: $45K
We need to fairly reimburse the care that will keep people well. We need less high tech and more high touch interventions to empower people to change their lifestyles. We need more athletic trainers, yoga instructors, exercise physiologists, nutritionists, and dietitians, working together with the medical team to promote healthy behaviors. As a society, we need to make healthy choices easy choices.Simplify food labeling.Subsidize fruits and veggies instead of commodities like corn. Ensure the creation of bike trails and city parks.

“We don’t need to spend ourselves into poverty on health care,” cautioned a speaker in the documentary film Escape Fire. “We just need to do it differently.”

We need to reimburse health and wellness instead of more-more-more medical care. We need to pay fee for value instead of fee for service.

If health care inflation applied to the rest of the economy from the 1950s to today, food costs would be:

  • A dozen eggs: $55.
  • A gallon of milk: $48.
We can’t afford the status quo in the way we spend our healthcare dollars. We need to value health, and shift from desperate medical interventions to stave off death to gentle lifestyle changes to promote health. Together, we can pay for the powerful, simple, low tech low cost interventions that motivate patients to change their risky health behaviors, and stop the runaway inflation of our medical costs.

By Dr. Kohar Jones 
This post originally appeared on the Doctors for America blog


  1. Dr. Kohar Jones,

    I am a licensed acupuncturist and I couldn't agree more with needing more high touch practitioners. Myself along with many other acupuncturists are trying to get the word out how acupuncture is an effective and affordable method for treatment along with the others you mentioned in your article. I would love to have a conversation with you about including acupuncture as part of a patient's wellness regiment.
    Thank you for thinking differently and challenging the status quo!
    Melinda Camardella, L.Ac. in Illinois

    1. Response from Dr. Jones:

      I agree that acupuncture is an important healing modality, and along with other complementary and alternative healing modalities will likely be integrated into the American health system in the future as we search for cost-effective approaches to health promotion and disease prevention. At the community health center where I work in South Chicago, we host a pay-what-you-can yoga class for patients. They appreciate the breathing techniques and relaxation, reporting decreased stress and less depression.

  2. The benefits of talking to a doctor early on in an illness are well-proven, with those who seek the professional care of a doctor having faster recovery times. This means that a person suffering an illness can avoid extra days missed at work, and get back on their feet quickly