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The Los Angeles Times this morning reports that a new study by the Santa Monica-based Milken Institute suggests that better prevention, early detection, and healthier lifestyle choices by Americans could save the nation more than $1 trillion in treatment expenses and lost productivity.

The conclusion is that the current health system in the US, which is largely oriented around treatment, “no longer serves the nation because the population is aging and because the incidence of obesity and preventable diseases among Americans of all ages, including children, has risen alarmingly in recent years … It says a reorientation toward prevention could avert 40 million cases of seven chronic diseases -- cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, mental disorders and pulmonary conditions -- in the year 2023.”

And, the Times adds, “The report recommends making rewards for prevention a part of any healthcare overhaul, and it urges a renewed commitment by policymakers to achieving a ‘healthy body weight.’ Reducing obesity alone to reasonable and achievable levels, the report says, could trim the incidence of disease by 14.8 million case in 2023, saving $60 billion in treatment costs and improving the nation's economic output by $254 billion.”
KC's View:
I know that people’s lifestyle choices are their own, but this report – and I see no reason to disbelieve its conclusions – suggests that there are lager issues involved here. How can a nation be competitive if its productivity is so hampered by disease? How can it not try to create a culture of health when these diseases are so preventable, and when it could mean so much to the nation’s future.

Isn’t this, in essence, the Steve Burd argument when it comes to heath care? That there are much larger stakes in this game than ever before, and that people need to be made more accountable for their decisions and given greater incentives for making changes in their lifestyles?

To paraphrase the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, a trillion dollars here and a trillion dollars there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.