The executive director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease was in Iowa this week to talk with Iowans about reducing the escalating costs in the health care system. Ken Thorpe met with business and labor leaders, as well as groups which represent patients.
“About 20 to 30 percent of the growth in health care spending in this state and nationally is due to the doubling of obesity so if we can do a better job in our schools, workplace and communities of slowing the growth in obesity, we’re going to save health care spending,” Thorpe says. “And three-quarters of what we spend on health care is linked to chronically-ill patients and we don’t do a very good job of working with those patients to keep them healthier.”
About 20 percent of Medicare patients who are released from a hospital are re-admitted within a month and, according to Thorpe, “virtually all” those return visits to the hospital are preventable.
Engaging patients, post-discharge, to keep them healthier — make sure they’re on their medications, that they’re managing their health at home — we could cut those re-admission rates in half,” Thorpse says. “That alone could save potentially $125 billion.” The Iowa Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease was launched three years ago and Terry Branstad, the state’s governor-elect, attended the event. Branstad was president of Des Moines University three years ago, the state’s largest medical school.
“I think he’s well aware of the opportunities that the state has both at the state level and the community level to really implement many of the things that we’ve been talking about in terms of disease prevention and more effective management of chronically-ill patients,” Thorpe says. The State of Iowa could qualify for more federal funding for the Medicaid program if the state implements policies that keep chronically ill Iowans healthier. An enhanced counseling and education program for diabetics or an effort to contact patients to ensure they’ve filled a prescription could yield more federal funds for the state-administered Medicaid program.
According to Thorpe, half of the prescriptions that doctors write never get filled.