Reducing Healthcare Costs is a Walk in the Park

Posted by in Healthcare

No one could dispute that healthcare is expensive, and the cost is going up with advances in treatment, technology and equipment. Healthcare reforms, like the Affordable Care Act, have already taken a larger bite out of a worker’s paycheck, and more increases are coming.


While healthcare costs are going up in general, an article in Forbes, “Who Causes Half of Healthcare Costs,” reported that of all patients in the healthcare system, a small percentage are responsible for the majority of dollars spent on treatment and other services.


Data from a study done by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality listed the five most expensive healthcare illnesses or conditions, which account for close to 50 percent of the cost of healthcare. Topping the list is trauma, like car accidents. Injuries or medical conditions resulting from trauma are almost impossible to control. Initiatives to prevent accidents and injuries as a whole may help reduce the incidence of trauma and the resulting costs.


The other four—cancer, heart disease, mental disorders and pulmonary diseases—are another story. According to the article, these illnesses that complete the 50-percent healthcare price tag are either preventable or could be treated in a different manner to reduce costs.


There have been major strides in the detection and treatment of most of these medical conditions. However, poor lifestyle choices by patients often undermine the efforts of doctors and treatments. For example, a patient with one of the top four who continues to use tobacco products or ignores his doctor’s recommendations on diet and exercise may actually make a condition worse, despite the best course of treatment. And, according to the report, healthcare providers are encouraged to spend money for treatment for the top five and other medical conditions, supported by the industry’s cost-plus reimbursement system.


Information from the Commonwealth Fund showed that, compared to other healthcare systems in the world, the U.S. uses double the number of MRIs, 90 percent more CT scans and pays twice as much for prescription drugs. Other information showed that despite the higher percentage of testing, some patient outcomes were below other countries' outcomes. While it stated that the U.S. excels in physician quality and technology, all that quality is expensive.


So, why aren’t people healthier and healthcare costs going down? Another interesting fact is many major illnesses or heath conditions are also linked in some way with the negative effects of the obesity crisis in the U.S. The article noted that 10 percent of all healthcare costs can be linked to obesity, which is a major contributor to heart disease and type-2 diabetes. Diabetes is largely driven by lifestyle choices, and according to the CDC, up to 50 percent of the U.S. population could be pre-diabetic by the year 2020. The CDC also estimated that 35.9 percent of the U.S. population can be classified as obese.


There are exceptions to every rule. Some people become ill with diabetes through no fault of their own, just like there are many factors that contribute to the onset of other illnesses and conditions. What’s the answer to controlling the high costs of healthcare? The article suggests the missing component may be courage. 


Physicians and healthcare providers need to be more aggressive in pushing a healthy lifestyle that includes diet and exercise to control weight and keep people active. Health insurance plans could offer incentives for preventive care and lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or smoking cessation. Instead of a new wonder drug, taking a walk and making better food choices could be the proverbial stone that eliminates obesity and its effects at the same time. Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest. 


Photo source:


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

  • Mary Nestor-Harper
    Mary Nestor-Harper
    Wow!  I am excited about all the comments and the concern for the issue.  The emphasis on wellness in ObamaCare may force doctors and employers to emphasize healthy lifestyles and penalize in the form of higher premiums for poor health choices.  It will be interesting to see what happens as the regulations take affect.  Thanks for the comments.
  • Janet M
    Janet M
    Interesting comments on a serious ethical issue.
  • Cynthia G
    Cynthia G
    Doesn't the government already control enough of our life! And they already discriminate against smokers!  How about taxing the obese and alcohol drinkers too! Maybe not allow them to eat or drink in public!
  • Dorothy M
    Dorothy M
    As for the top of the list -    trauma - I think there are many things that can be done, but that have to do with Americans changing their attitudes.  Seat belt wearing has an enormous impact.  Changing attitudes about risk taking, too.  Unfortunately Americans often value their INDEPENDENCE over everything, including common sense.  
  • Tricia J
    Tricia J
    I feel if doctor's will push a healthier diet lifestyle and stop pushing a pill, we will allow people hope and the will to be healthier.
  • Angelica A
    Angelica A
    Great Article!
  • daryl m
    daryl m
    This article was very enlighting as well as informative. It has increased my awareness of the facts in the health field and help aid me in my undergraduate studies.
  • Mazzeran M
    Mazzeran M
    For me it helpled when my physician came in sat down and talked to me about making changes. Our doctors are usually so busy they don't say more than five words to you before their writing prescriptions and sending you on your way. Dr. need to take a real interest in their patients.
  • Gidget G
    Gidget G
    Yes, I agree that there are alot of unhealthy people..But, with the poor economy alot of people just are so stressed that they opt to eat fast food bc it's cheap and a quick fix...Healthy food cost more.. So, if they had healthier options and more education about the effects on what happens when we eat these foods and what's in them maybe people would think twice
  • rita g
    rita g
    Let's all face it health care is big  business in the U.S.A.  and like any other business it's  number one goal is to make money!!!  As a health care practitioner of 37 plus years ...I have seen the inner working of health care agencies at hospital/ long term care and  community levels. operate .and in all instances what I have seen is that while quality of care is an ideal,  making money comes first!    Preventative care and avoiding of unnecessary care are not money makers.    Unless we reward such efforts the cost of health care will continue to increase without  significant improvements in overall health.  
  • Cheryl D
    Cheryl D
    unfortunately I see healthcare circling the drain.  I also see so much fraud with mass health and other health insurance's.  I thought mass health was supposed to get people back on track to better their lives.  It condones the abuse of drugs, overeating etc.  I work in healthcare and I totally want to get out because I see the such abuse of the system while we are all working hard to just make ends meet.  
  • Elaine C
    Elaine C
    We are a nation of addicts- to food, alcohol, tobacco, pain meds, and illegal drugs.   These addictions are hard to treat and very expensive.   I believe that public policy must change so that the offending substances are harder to get and more expensive.
  • barbara s
    barbara s
    I agree the focus should be excercise and healthy eating
  • Suzanne S
    Suzanne S
    Doctors cannot be held 100% responsible for their patients' striving for healthier lifestyles.  Employer groups would greatly benefit from investing in their employees' health; eg:  on-site gyms or reimbursement for memberships.  In addition, to hold their employees more accountable, they should charge smokers who refuse to quit, and obese employees who refuse to exercise higher premiums for their insurance than those counter-parts who do not smoke and exercise regularly.  Everyone has to play a part in healthcare reform.
  • Lynnette T
    Lynnette T
    Excellent article
  • Kevin L
    Kevin L
    While I appreciate the information and analytics provided in this article, it is in no way the responsibility of healthcare providers, physicians, and health insurers, to more aggressively 'push' for healthier lifestyles. Employers and plans do incentivize its members to lead a healthier lifestyle by way of discounts and premium reductions. The responsibility lay with the individual. If a far greater quality of life is not incentive enough, a modest savings certainly will not be the motivating factor. Obesity, diabetes, and other controllable long term illnesses have been increasing since the early 90's in spite of the awareness campaigns touting the adverse affects of not managing them properly. The problem is the individuals commitment to change, not physician or service provider involvement.Also, while the number of tests that are run (CTs, MRI, Xrays,) seem to indicate a gross overuse of billable services, what must be given consideration is how many of these tests are run to CYA. It is self preservation in a society that expects our care givers to be flawless in their diagnosis and treatment plans even though we do not hold ourselves to that standard with regard to personal health. Unfortunately, in a society that files lawsuits so easily, our physicians must do everything possible to protect themselves...even when it means excessive tests.Just another view to consider
  • Shannon B
    Shannon B
    I think the cost of heathcare is ridiculous for one and for another the choice for them to be able to refuse you for a prior health disease or  problem or a risk is another.
  • Sheadorah M
    Sheadorah M
    I think the missing component may be courage.Great article!
  • Sheadorah M
    Sheadorah M
    I like this article. Everyone could use encouragement from time to time.
  • Sheadorah M
    Sheadorah M
    Great article!  It's very upfront about the subject.
  • Dominique P
    Dominique P
    This is common sense. But how to educate physician to spend less in diagnostic? They do not want to kill the cashing cow. Where is the Hippocrate oath?The best thing to make them move is to fight with the same weapons. Offer a public insurance that stop their reciprocal business that double or triple the cost of Healthcare.We need regulations here!Or compete with them by offering a low cost health care out of the US. Like a clinic boat working in an none territorial waters.If you are pushing too much citizen will be inventive

Jobs to Watch