The focus on drug prices ignores the real issue for healthcare costs

  • The overall diabetes rate in the U.S. adult population is growing, up from 10.8% in 2008-2009 to 11.5% in 2016-2017.
  • The rate increase has resulted in about 1.7 million more Americans with diabetes diagnoses now than would have been the case had the rate not changed since 2008-2009.
  • Even more alarming is that obesity, a key risk factor in the development of type 2 diabetes, has climbed by 2.3 points since 2008-2009, to reach 28.3% nationally in 2016-2017.

While politicians and the media fan the flame of anger around high drug prices Americans are slowly adding billions of dollars to health care costs through their unhealthy lifestyles.  To make matters worse the AMA, insurers and most physicians are doing nothing about it.

The obesity epidemic poses several threats to our nation:

  • Obesity increases health care costs
  • Decreases on-the-job productivity,
  • It impacts our nation’s military readiness.
  • A 2016 study found that [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]obesity costs the United States $149 billion in medical expenses annually[/inlinetweet]— with about half of those expenses paid by publicly financed Medicare and Medicaid programs.58,59,60 Indirect, or non-medical, costs from obesity also run into the billions of dollars due to missed time at school and work, lower productivity, premature mortality, and increased transportation costs.

Is taking a pill the answer to unhealthy lifestyle issues?

Have high cholesterol? Take a statin.  Have high blood pressure? Take a BP Rx.  The truth is that it’s easier for us to deal with a health issue by getting an Rx versus actually taking personal responsibility and eating right and exercising.

Now some people may blame pharma for this and they are partly right, but pharma only fills a need of the public.  If there were no medications for high cholesterol and high blood pressure more Americans would be dying from these problems.  In a society where instant gratification takes too long we want our health problems to be fixed NOW rather than deal with diet and exercise.

The promise of that system is undeniably alluring: whatever your ailment, a pill or a procedure will fix it. Yet the promise hasn’t been kept. For all the miracles that modern medicine really does perform, it is not the primary determinant of most people’s health

Should people who are obese pay more for health care?

Our national weight problem brings huge costs, both medical and economic. Yet our anti-obesity efforts have none of the urgency of our antismoking efforts. We should declare obesity a disease and say we’re going to help you get over it.

It’s worth noting that the obese, as well as any of the rest of us suffering from, [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]a medical condition affected by behavior, already have plenty of incentive to get healthy.[/inlinetweet] But we struggle to do so. Daily life gets in the way. Inertia triumphs.

In defense people are working longer, and takeout meals have become a default dinner. Gym classes have been cut. The real price of soda has fallen 33 percent over the last three decades. The real price of fruit and vegetables has risen more than 40 percent.

The solutions to these problems are beyond the control of any individual. They involve a different sort of responsibility: civic — even political — responsibility. They depend on the kind of collective action that helped cut smoking rates nearly in half.

Politicians like Mr Sanders have to acknowledge that we are in dire need of a national educational program for obesity with the same emphasis we used for smoking.  A leader needs to step forward to bring insurers, HCP’s and politicians to address this problem NOW before it’s too late.