Happy 50th #Medicare and #Medicaid for #KeepingUSHealthy

July 27, 2015

As the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid is marked this Thursday, July 30, it is only appropriate to celebrate the many merits of these two important health care programs. Providing access to quality health care for millions of Americans is no short order, but as rates of chronic disease continue to climb throughout the U.S. the success of these programs is becoming increasingly challenging.

As a leading proponent for quality care to prevent and better manage chronic disease, PFCD would be remiss not to call out the opportunities at hand to celebrate these programs and the people they help every day.  Rising rates of often preventable and highly manageable chronic conditions are the #1 threat to the solvency of these two valuable programs – 98 cents of every Medicare dollar is spent to treat the symptoms of chronic disease – and focusing on improving health of the people served will reverse the tide and help sustain, and improve, Medicare and Medicaid for future generations.

As we celebrate the past 50 years of accomplishment, we should take time to reflect on approaches that will help these beneficiary populations stay healthier and, in so doing, put a significant dent in long-term health care costs and preserving the real value of these programs.

Just a couple examples to consider:

  • Promoting the many wellness programs available as a means of prevention. 55 million Americans depend on Medicare to cover 23 types of preventive services, including flu shots and diabetes screenings.  However, less than half take advantage of the free wellness visits, cholesterol checks, cardiovascular and cancer screenings that the program provides. It makes far more sense to pay the comparably small upfront costs of these preventive doctor visits and screenings than it does to pay for extended hospitalizations and expensive treatments down the road.
  • Increasing access to recommended treatments for chronic conditions. Improving access to and follow through on recommended treatments are important for all chronic diseases. For example, it’s no secret that obesity is a gateway to several other chronic conditions and that a third of American adults are obese. By focusing on how we can do a better job preventing and treating obesity, the benefits not just to the overall health of our society but also to our economy will become a reality.

As a whole, we must continue the emphasis on wellness and disease prevention. Taking the long view and providing a sounder future and better health for our nation means we must focus resources on preventing and better managing chronic disease.  It’s the only way to allow Americans to enjoy the benefits Medicare and Medicaid for another 50 years.