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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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A Resolution to Chronic Diseases and Rising Healthcare Costs

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A serious issue that continues to plague the United States and its ongoing budget crisis is the enormous cost of healthcare in this country. Currently, the U.S. spends more money on healthcare costs than European or Asian countries, primarily on managing chronic diseases. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. spends more than 75% of the $1.4 trillion in medical costs on treatment of chronic medical conditions. Not surprisingly, these chronic medical conditions are caused by four primary lifestyle choices: 1) tobacco use, 2) food choices, 3) portion sizes, and 4) physical inactivity.

Michael Roizen, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic argues that the ongoing debate over the rising cost of Medicare must be stopped. He urges us to avert our focus to managing chronic conditions by taking personal responsibility for our choices and thereby help to lower healthcare costs. Cleveland Clinic has helped its own employees with taking personal responsibility for their health by instituting a wellness program based on studies that show that every $1 spent on wellness care results in $3 of healthcare savings. Some of the elements in Cleveland Clinic’s wellness program include:

  1. Changing the culture: Cleveland Clinic has emphasized the rising cost of healthcare and the impact on jobs and quality of life in all of their communications with the public, employees, and patients. This has helped increase awareness and resulted in a changed culture in the workplace.
  2. Changing the environment: Cleveland Clinic has made it easier for their employees to stay healthy by banning trans fats at their various hospital cafeterias, making food labels more transparent, removing unhealthy foods and drinks from vending machines, providing free gym use, and providing stress management classes such as yoga.
  3. Using incentives: at Cleveland Clinic, employees can earn rebates toward the costs of their employee health plan if they receive positive annual health tests. Employees could earn up to 100 percent in rebates if they meet key goals or if a doctor agrees that a patient was doing everything they could to maintain good health.

Overall, Cleveland Clinic has seen positive changes as a result of their wellness program: nearly 20,000 employees have enrolled, almost 50 percent of employees with chronic illness have chosen to participate in coordinated care programs to help them stay healthy and manage their illnesses, and employees at the various campuses have lost a total of 211,000 pounds by using the gyms and weight management programs. Dr. Roizen believes that similar results could be achieved at the federal level, resulting in reduced Medicare costs and lessening the burden on taxpayers.