There are some people who say there is no simple way to lower the high cost of healthcare. They’ll tell you the problems are too complex and the system too entrenched. But I disagree. I’d like you to consider another possibility. It may not eliminate our cost problems altogether. But it has the potential to bring them down to manageable size.
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It is estimated that 75 percent of the $2.7 trillion the United States spends on healthcare annually goes to treat diseases that are almost entirely preventable. The Centers for Disease Control lists the top five as heart disease, cancer, stroke, lung disease and diabetes.
As a thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon, I operated on more than 22,000 patients. Most of them had one or more of these preventable conditions. Most were smokers, or overweight, or sedentary, or some combination of those three.
Healthcare reform is important. But providing education and advocacy around wellness could be the “magic bullet” to help bring healthcare costs under control.
Role of wellness
Human behavior is complex. And there are many factors that influence our lifestyle choices that contribute to making us obese, sedentary and tobacco-addicted. But there is one big difference between wellness and every other healthcare cost solution. Wellness is entirely under our control.
This is not an easy task, and people need help to meet these challenges. That’s why at Cleveland Clinic, we developed a voluntary Healthy Choice program for participants in our employee health plan. The program includes free memberships in fitness centers, weight loss programs and smoking cessation programs. Employees who participate in Healthy Choice are rewarded with lower premium costs on their health insurance.
As one of the nation’s leading healthcare centers, we feel a moral and ethical responsibility to help our employees and patients realize the benefits of wellness. If we can help our employees and the patients we serve make healthier choices, we may save more lives than those saved by medical intervention. That’s powerful medicine.