It is estimated that nearly 50% of the American population suffers from at least one chronic disease. The conditions include heart disease, asthma, cancer, diabetes, obesity and more. These disorders are often preventable, and frequently manageable through early detection, improved diet, exercise, and treatment therapy. They are also unfortunately expensive to treat. This is part of the reason many premiums went up when the Affordable Care Act required insurance to be offered at a reasonable price for those who suffer from chronic diseases. When the chronically ill were added to the pool of insurance customers, the additional expenses were spread over the entirety of the group and many premiums rose.
In 2006, the US’s health expenditure per person was over $7,000 – more than twice the average of 29 other developed countries. While we spend more, the life expectancy is far below many other nations who spend less annually. What is going on here? There are certainly many factors in play, but naturally when health care costs more the price of health insurance will go up. Many people are trying to find a political solution to bring down the prices, but are they overlooking the biggest factor? Should we instead be focusing our efforts on addressing these preventable diseases through lifestyle modification? If we could reduce the number of chronically ill Americans, it isn’t crazy to think health insurance would become much more affordable.
CDC – Eliminating 3 Risk Factors
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that eliminating three risk factors – poor diet, inactivity, and smoking – would prevent:
- 80% of heart disease and stroke
- 80% of type 2 diabetes
- 40% of cancer
Obesity is a major culprit contributing to the progression of many diseases and has strong links with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and more. The total cost of obesity to U.S. companies is estimated at $13 billion annually. This includes the “extra” cost of health insurance, sick leave, life insurance, and disability insurance. Unfortunately, 1 in every 3 adults is obese. In addition, 1 in 5 children between the ages of 6 and 19 are obese as well. Given current trends, one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes over the course of a lifetime!
Some Costs Associated With Chronic Disease:
- Cardiovascular disease and stroke – $313 billion in 2009
- Cancer – $89 billion in 2007
- Smoking – $96 billion in 2004
- Diabetes – $116 billion in 2007
- Obesity – $61 billion in 2000
Chronic disease is a huge threat to America’s health and wallet. The answer goes way beyond political legislation. That is merely a large band-aid for an enormous problem. There needs to be a grassroots movement to make America healthy again. If we eat healthier, exercise, and quit smoking, health care will become much more affordable and the population will benefit tremendously.