• Editorial - Our Contribution to Health Care Costs

    Letter From the Editor

    As seniors, we seem to get a lot of blame for the escalating cost of health care in the U.S. Yet recent evidence suggests that just the opposite may be true, at least in the area of heart health. That is good news not only for us, but also for the economy of the country. 

    At the turn of this century, economists were predicting that continued growth of health spending would soon be out of control with disastrous consequences on the federal budget. Yet ironically, there has been a dramatic slowing in all sectors (Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and out-of-pocket) health care spending. It turns out that the vast majority (about three-quarters) of the slowdown in spending can be attributed to us seniors. So what explains this phenomenon?

    What does not seem to account for the slowdown is either the recent Great Recession or the Affordable Care Act, since the slowing of health care spending predates both and has continued since the recovery from the recession. Could it be that we seniors are doing better with preventive medicine, especially in the area of heart health? This would actually fly in the face of most studies, which suggest that preventive medicine doesn’t save money. Yet that appears to be exactly what is happening in the area of cardiovascular health.

    A study led by Harvard economist Professor David M. Cutler focused on medical spending for senior citizens, and a breakdown of patients into disease categories showed that by far the greatest slowdown in spending was related to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular conditions. In addition, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that death rates from cardiovascular disease among seniors has declined dramatically. The take-away message is that preventive medicine, at least in the area of heart health care among seniors, is working not only to keep us living longer and better, but also to keep our federal budget healthier. And that’s good news for all of us.

    Of course, we know that preventive medicine includes a healthy diet, exercise (no matter our age), avoiding tobacco products and taking our statins, anticoagulants, anti-hypertensives, diabetes medications and whatever else our doctors feel is in our best interest. So, keep up the good work, and hopefully we can all not only make the most of these golden years, but also contribute to a healthier federal economy.