Friday, October 17, 2008

Voters See Health Care As a Chronic Problem

A bipartisan survey released earlier this week found that health care is the second largest concern for voters in the upcoming presidential election, after concerns about the economy. The survey of 1,500 potential voters, who were polled from October 5 through 9 of this year, was conducted by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.

Almost 60% of those surveyed said that health care is a "major issue" in their upcoming choice for president, according to a recent press release by the organization. Health care is also the top personal concern for men and women, who worry most about the cost of health care. Almost 70% of respondents said that chronic diseases should be diagnosed and treated better in order to control costs.

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease states that over 75% of U.S. health care dollars (in both public and private programs) are spent treating chronic diseases. I'm not surprised to read this. I was once told that 10% of Medicare patients have diabetes, but their health care costs take up 25% of the Medicare budget. All told, chronic disease costs eat up about 96% of Medicare's budget and 83% of Medicaid's budget, according to the organization.

At a presentation on aging that I attended last year, the speaker pointed out that medicine has moved from "cure to care" -- in other words, most diseases these days are managed long-term rather than cured with medical or surgical interventions. People are living longer, but not necessarily better, as chronic disease rates have been increasing steadily each year. Today, many experts, such as those affiliated with the Stanford Center on Longevity, are trying to prevent or delay the onset of chronic disease in order to cut medical costs and improve people's quality of life.

Voters seem to understand how the burden of chronic disease affects our health care system. It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out in November.