The Medicare Board of Trustees just released its latest report on the program’s finances and the results are terrifying. Despite a decline in health care costs, the Medicare Trust Fund will be bankrupt in 2026.
For the program to survive for future generations, innovation will be essential. The old medical paradigm of diagnosing and treating diseases must give way to a more holistic approach aimed at eliminating risk factors that lead to disease. The best place to start is by addressing the growing problem of adult obesity.
In the past 30 years, the percentage of American adults who are obese has doubled, driving a sharp rise in such chronic conditions as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
The ramifications for health spending are significant. Annual health costs for obese individuals are more than $2,700 higher than for non-obese people. That adds up to about $190 billion every year. And many of these costs are borne by Medicare, which will spend a half-trillion dollars over the next decade on preventable hospital readmissions alone.
We cannot afford to wait until patients are on Medicare to fight obesity. Rather, we need to encourage weight control over the course of patients’ lives.
Fortunately, we now have an ideal opportunity to implement reforms. The new health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act can establish effective care coordination strategies to identify and treat chronic conditions earlier, addressing not just the immediate conditions but the underlying ones as well. Obesity is one of the most common. Medicare, in turn, can adopt these strategies, and the benefits for both patients and taxpayers will be substantial. Continue reading…