If it costs less to keep people healthy, why aren’t we doing it?
Shouldn’t it make sense for the U.S. to spend more time and money on keeping us healthy rather than fixing us once we’re sick? Perhaps the incentives aren’t quite high enough for those in the healthcare industry to shift their focus toward preventative medicine that receives much lower reimbursement than the expensive procedures required to fix us once we’ve fallen ill.
The director of the Congressional Budget Office, Peter Orszag, says rising health-care costs pose a fundamental risk to our economic future. He noted accurately that Medicare and Medicaid, if they continue growing at their current rate, are on a path to exceed 20 percent of the gross domestic product.
This is not an insurmountable dilemma, as long as policymakers embrace a core, fundamental truth in their work to shape the future of public heath programs: It costs less to keep people healthy than to treat them when they become seriously ill. Despite that, the sad fact is that we spend only about 5 percent of our national health expenditures on preventing disease and promoting health.