Healthcare costs: some pesky facts


-The US spends the most of any country in the world on healthcare in terms of percent of GDP, sitting around 18% as of the most recent data.

-After accounting for inflation, healthcare expenditures increased by $933.5 billion between 1996 and 2013.

– 50% of the increase was simply due to higher prices.

-Different chronic diseases had different patterns of price increases. The biggest increase was seen in diabetes care driven largely by rising costs of pharmaceuticals.

-The unhealthiest states were all heavy Republican states  with Mississippi at the bottom of the rankings, followed by Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and West Virginia. Mississippi and Louisiana struggle, particularly with high rates of smoking, obesity, and poverty among kids.

The UN team touring Alabama was aghast.  They were seeing extreme measures of poverty and poor health.  Surely, this was not the United States in 2017 but unfortunately it was.  In fact, heavy Republican states are among the unhealthiest states in the US which is ironic because the suggested cuts to healthcare hurt them most.

If we are to address healthcare spending issues such as poverty and the relation to health have to be addressed along with preventable chronic health issues.  For example,[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] obesity is one of the biggest drivers of preventable chronic diseases and healthcare costs in the United States.[/inlinetweet] Currently, estimates for these costs range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year.[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] In addition, obesity is associated with job absenteeism, costing approximately $4.3 billion annually and with lower productivity while at work, costing employers $506 per obese worker per year[/inlinetweet]

Over the last decade, the list prices of two of the most popular diabetes drugs have increased by 290%.

Type 2 diabetes is increasingly prevalent, but also largely preventable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults.

So what does all this tell me?  It tells me that the drug company model of raising prices is still very much part of a business plan, but it also tells me that our healthcare system is NOT doing enough to prevent the preventable health conditions and that too many pharma CEO’s are ranked by stock performance, not people.

This morning I received my email from STAT news.  They had an article on the best and worst pharma CEO’s and unfortunately it seemed to be weighed heavily by stock performance.  This is totally unacceptable.  For example, [pullquote]the CEO of Gilead did not make the list of worst biopharma CEO’s even though they purchased their drug for Hep-C from someone who was supposed to be working for the government and priced it so high that even the VA could not afford to purchase enough for our Veterans[/pullquote].  They then used the money from the sales to purchase another company rather than invest it in R&D.

Obesity, in relationship to healthcare costs, is a national emergency.  Drug companies cannot continue to get away with substantial price increases putting medications out of reach of patients who are struggling financially.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The US spends the most of any country in the world on healthcare in terms of percent of GDP, sitting around 18% as of the most recent data.[/inlinetweet] It’s time to attack aggressively these costs on all fronts.