The healthcare debate the media refuses to acknowledge

  • Drug prices continue to fuel media stories and drive politicians to action but, for the most part, the real driver of high healthcare costs is being ignored.
  • The total percentage of non-elderly people with insurance and affordability problems to 26.2%.
  • The number of US adults with diabetes increased from 21.2 million in 2003-2004 to 30.2 million in 2013-2014, while the prevalence of obesity rose from 31.7% to 37.5% over the same period.
  • Millennials are on track to be the most obese generation.

According to Lauren Blair at The Hill “over the past five years, brand name drug prices have increased at 10 times the rate of inflation, a trend that has left one-in-four Americans unable to afford the medications they need. Meanwhile, the industry is raking in record profits. It’s no wonder lowering drug prices was a focus on the campaign trail and the No. 1 issue voters want lawmakers to address in the 116th Congress.

Are drug prices a problem? Yes, for the people who can’t afford prescription drugs it’s a huge problem but the fact remains that in the U.S. prescription drugs only account for ten cents of every healthcare dollar we spend.

The frequency of obesity and diabetes in the U.S. adult population rose by roughly 6 percentage points and 3 percentage points, respectively, between 2003 and 2014, according to findings published in Obesity.

“Our efforts at stemming the tide of new-onset obesity and diabetes are failing,” Peter P. Toth, MD, Ph.D., director of preventive cardiology at CGH Medical Center in Sterling, Illinois, and professor of clinical family and community medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, told Endocrine Today. “Both of these conditions greatly increase risk for multiple morbidities, which incurs substantial socioeconomic cost and human suffering, and for premature mortality.”

According to the researchers, the prevalence of adults who met the threshold for overweight or obesity rose from 65.2% in 2003-2004 to 69% by 2013-2014. Obesity prevalence grew to an even greater extent, rising from 31.7% in 2003-2004 to 37.5% by 2013-2014. Rates of abdominal obesity also rose, increasing from 59% in the first survey to 64% in the last for men and from 40% to 44% in women.

Folks this is a national health crisis

The costs associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes will continue to rise in an unsustainable manner,” Toth said. “More needs to be done to educate people about obesity and inactivity being the most important risk factors for metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and new-onset diabetes. Patients also need to understand that during the early stages of diabetes, the impairment in glucose metabolism can usually still be reversed with lifestyle modification and weight loss.”

The medical care costs of obesity in the United States are high. In 2008 dollars, these costs were estimated to be $147 billion. The annual nationwide productive costs of obesity obesity-related absenteeism range between $3.38 billion ($79 per obese individual) and $6.38 billion ($132 per obese individual.

The Milken Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, released a report on the real economic costs of obesity and overweight in the United States. This report, unlike many estimates, includes both direct health care costs that are caused by obesity and overweight and indirect costs associated with lost productivity borne by patients and their employers. The total number is staggering: $1.72 trillion dollars each year.

We keep hearing about “digital health” and how VC money is pouring into start-ups but the reality is that, as a nation, we are getting unhealthier and it’s going to cost every one of us. Until the media is ready to address the REAL issues of rising healthcare pharma will continue to be portrayed as a villain while we slowly eat ourselves to death.

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