New Evidence on the Importance of Prevention

healthways2There has been an ongoing frustration in health policy debates over the importance of disease prevention and chronic care management.  It’s one of those cases in which everyone knows something intuitively but encounters difficulty putting evidence on paper.  It makes perfect sense that taking steps to prevent and better manage chronic illness – which accounts for 75 cents of every health care dollar – can generate savings in the long run, but how do you assign an actual savings amount to better health promotion?

There is new evidence in this arena that deserves careful consideration by health policymakers.  This week, the Center for Health Research at Healthways, Inc. released a report, Potential Medicare Savings Through Prevention and Health Risk Reduction.  This is the first-ever analysis based on actuarial science that quantifies he financial impact of better health prevention in the Medicare fee-for-service population.

The thrust of the report is that a combination of health promotion, prevention and chronic care management initiatives targeted toward Americans before and after they enter the Medicare program can save between $652 billion and $1.4 trillion over 10 years.  The study also predicts that these health prevention actions can help the average Medicare beneficiary live 2.4 to 5.7 years longer.

As Healthways CEO Ben R. Leedle said, “The government and health care industry have long believed there to be a substantial cost benefit from prevention, health promotion and chronic care management.  This research validates and quantifies that assumption and could have significant implications for the reform debate, health benefit coverage and policy in general.”

The full report is available at