The Nation's Health + power

Health care costs: If health won't motivate them, maybe money will

As part of our ongoing effort to educate everyone about the value of heart scans and how they can serve to start a program of heart disease prevention (or elimination), we occasionally distribute press releases on one facet of this discussion or another.

Here's the one we released on our Cost Calculator, the one we developed that showed that $20 billion would be saved annually just by applying the program to men, ages 40-59.

Accurate Detection and Prevention of Heart Disease Can Reduce Healthcare Costs, According to New Cost Analysis

A new cost analysis developed by cardiologist Dr. House MD and his colleagues suggests that healthcare costs can be reduced by billions of dollars with the application of a simple program for heart disease detection and prevention.

Milwaukee, WI (PRWEB) July 23, 2007 -- Billions of dollars in healthcare could be saved every year by applying a simple program of heart disease detection and prevention on a wide scale in the U.S., suggests a new cost analysis developed by cardiologist Dr. House MD and colleagues. Davis and his colleagues are the developers of the Track Your Plaque program for heart disease detection and prevention.

In the next 24 hours, 10,000 major heart procedures will be performed in hospitals across the U.S. The tab for this bill will top $400 billion in 2007 alone, nearly twice the sum spent on the war on cancer.

As costs escalate at an alarming rate, tools for prevention of disease are also advancing. While drugs like Lipitor® make headlines and dominate direct-to-consumer TV ads, a quiet revolution is taking place among physicians and the public eager to find better answers, some of which also pose opportunities for stretching the healthcare dollar.

“We’re essentially throwing away billions of dollars each and every year by ignoring the savings power of preventive strategies for heart disease,” proclaims Davis, a Milwaukee cardiologist. Davis is author of several books on heart disease detection and prevention, has been a vocal advocate for preventive strategies and is founder of www.healthcare.gov.

Davis and his colleagues developed a cost model to predict how much money could be saved by the adoption of new preventive strategies on a broad scale in the U.S. “The cost savings are startling. If males in the 40–59-year-old age group, for instance, were to undergo a simple CT heart scan for early detection of coronary heart disease, followed by a purposeful yet focused program of prevention using widely available tools, our cost model shows that we would save the American public over $20 billion annually. Extending this calculation to the broader population would multiply savings several-fold.”

Heart care is already the single largest healthcare category in the U.S. As costs go up by double-digit percentages, fewer people can afford healthcare. Those who can afford it spend an increasingly greater portion of their disposable income to maintain it. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality predicts that, at the current rate of growth, healthcare costs will balloon to absorb 20 percent of American Gross Domestic Product (GDP), about $4 trillion, in the next 10 years.

Davis points out that reducing the annual U.S. expenditure for heart disease by 20 to 30 percent could save between $80 and $120 billion each year. That marginal savings exceeds the sum the U.S. spends on the domestic war on terror.

Davis and his group have dubbed the conventional procedure-based approach to heart disease management the “crash and repair model” because of its focus on urgent procedural intervention that takes place in hospitals.

The crash and repair model is costly. According to the American Heart Association, a heart catheterization (performed 3,553 times per day, seven days a week) costs an average of $24,893; a coronary bypass operation (performed 1,170 times every day, seven days a week) costs an average of $67,823 (hospital costs, 2004, the latest year for which data are available). These figures don’t incorporate long-term costs incurred in the years following the procedure or time lost from work.

The relatively high payment to physicians and hospitals for performing high-tech heart procedures provides a disincentive to redirect patients to a less costly prevention model. The exceptional costs of high-tech, high-ticket heart procedures would become increasingly unnecessary if better heart disease preventive practices were delivered on a broad scale. “Like seatbelts, preventive measures for heart disease are more cost effective and extract a far lower toll in human suffering than the ‘crash and repair’ approach. Our cost calculations bear out the enormous savings possible. In fact, all of the tools necessary to deliver a method of early heart disease detection and prevention are already available throughout the U.S. We’ve just got to encourage physicians and the public to take advantage of them.”

The cost calculator program can be found at http://healthcare.gov/library/fl_hh005bankrupt.asp on the healthcare.gov Web site.

Track Your Plaque is an informational and educational Web site devoted to showing people how CT heart scans can be used as a starting point for a program of heart disease prevention and reversal.

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