THE BLOG

Health Care by the Numbers

06/13/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

On Tuesday, Barney Frank got nailed on Healthcare by a couple of doctors on a flight back to Boston. So they hate the new health care law. It is complex and full of deals. It fosters big government. They worry - as you should - about the costs of health care, the bank bailout and two wars. They are doctors who know they're getting stuck with lower fees. All of these concerns are worthy of at least reality-based paranoia.

BUT every American, someday, is going to be on BIG GOVERNMENT Medicare. Given this fact, no one truly interested in fiscal responsibility can bury his head in the sand and ignore why the health care law is so important.

If you think the uninsured get OK care - here are some statistics for just one disease, diabetes.

  • Uninsured are twice as likely to have a limb amputated for diabetes as insured diabetics.
  • Uninsured diabetics are almost 3 times more likely to be hospitalized than the privately insured. Getting hospitalized means their disease has worsened

Controlling health care costs is like looking for needles in haystacks. But we know which straws will someday become needles: Individuals with chronic diseases.

Work on this a little, the CBO estimates that 25% of people on Medicare account for 85% of our total Medicare expenses (high-cost group) - $300 Billion - or a one-year cost of about $32,000 for each person in the top 25% cost group versus about $3000 per person in the lower 75%. CBO estimates that close to 80% of the high cost group has at least one chronic disease (e.g., diabetes, COPD). Yet, about one-half have the same profile as the lower 75% cost group but without the severity.

If you believe it's just bad luck - then you don't have a chronic disease. Multiple chronic diseases often occur through the progression of a single chronic disease (e.g., diabetes). Slow the progression of the disease - slow the possible severity and likelihood of other chronic diseases. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure or a lot of money.

There are 11 Million uninsured people who are between the ages of 45 and 64; they're just around the corner from Medicare. About 75% worked last year and there is a very good chance they are just plain out of luck in getting health insurance either because of income or pre-existing conditions.

If we can save just 1 Million of those 45 to 64 year-olds from entering Medicare and being in that top 25%, the savings will be $32 Billion a year. Oh, and we will have saved a number of limbs along the way.