99 percent of Medicare for chronic disease

Feb. 23, 2010 at 11:42 PM
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ATLANTA, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Growth in chronic illnesses and related issues such as obesity must be arrested to control Medicare spending, two U.S. experts said.

Ken Thorpe, executive director of Emory University's Center for Entitlement Reform and chairman of the Rollins School of Public Health, and David Walker, president and chief executive officer of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and former comptroller general of the United States, said projected growth in Medicare spending is the single largest factor behind projections of unsustainably high deficits.

Thorpe and colleagues found more than half of all Medicare beneficiaries are treated for five or more chronic conditions each year -- such as diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and kidney disease -- and 99 percent of every healthcare dollar spent in Medicare goes for treating patients with chronic conditions.

"While this data might come as a surprise to many, it illustrates the urgent need to improve prevention and wellness among seniors as well as younger Americans," Thorpe said in a statement.

One immediate solution promoted by Thorpe is adoption of community health teams and other care coordination models in Medicare because beneficiaries often receive episodic care from multiple providers who rarely coordinate the care they deliver.

The findings are published in Health Affairs.

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