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Live Healthy, Atlanta! Thought Leader

Healthy Bank Accounts

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

The International Federation of Health Plans is an international trade association with more than 100 insurers in 25 countries. Last week, the IFHP released their annual survey data revealing the average price insurers paid for different drugs, devices, and medical services in countries around the globe in 2012. The country whose insurers had the highest bills to pay? The United States. The graphs depicting what various countries pay are striking. I’ve included one relevant graph in this article. If you’d like to see more, follow this link.

The IFHP’s report tells us what we already know. Health care is expensive! Even when our overall health is sound, we pay between $5,600 (single coverage) and $15,000 (family coverage) a year in insurance premiums. It’s a significant part of the budget for most of us. When we’re unwell, the money we pay for our care can quickly skyrocket. Millions of Americans suffer from preventable diseases, and it costs billions of dollars a year. While policy makers wrestle with lowering national health care costs, the rest of us can save a hefty chunk of change by improving our health.

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death in America. According to the CDC, seven of every ten deaths is caused by a chronic disease. These diseases cost us time with our loved ones, they cost us a higher quality of life, and they cost a lot of money. So this week, I’ve outlined some of the most common preventable chronic diseases and their cost to our nation and the individual.

Type 2 Diabetes

25.8 million American adults and children (8.3% of the total population) have diabetes. In 2007, diabetes contributed to a total of 231,404 deaths. The disease was listed as the underlying cause on 71,382 death certificates and as a contributing factor on an additional 160,022 death certificates. According to the American Diabetes Association, the total cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion.

Average medical expenditures for people diagnosed with diabetes are 2.3 times higher than they would be in the absence of diabetes. Annually, diabetics pay an average of $6,000 for their care. That figure includes visits to the doctor, annual eye exams, medicines, and monitoring supplies. What the $6000 doesn’t cover are the costs of complications caused by Type 2 diabetes. Heart disease, stroke, liver and kidney damage, susceptibility to infections and poor healing (which can lead to amputations) and eye damage are all complications the disease can bring with it. The CDC estimates that diabetic patients will pay twice as much for health care than those without the illness do.

Chronic Illness Caused by Smoking

More than 45 million Americans are smokers. A pack of cigarettes costs an average of  $5.29 in Georgia, but the true cost of that pack is much higher. According to the American Cancer Society, the average health cost to the smoker for every pack of cigarettes smoked is $35. From 2000 to 2004, total tobacco-related health care costs were $96 billion in the US.

Smoking cigarettes leads to an array of complications, from heart disease, infertility, blindness, and lung cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death – cigarette smoking causes almost all cases. Smoking causes about 90% of lung cancer deaths in men and almost 80% of lung cancer deaths in women. Lung cancer brings with it a terrible financial burden. Per month, the cost to a patient undergoing chemo-radiotherapy treatment ranged from $1,617 to $2,004.

High Cholesterol 

Hypercholesterolemia, a chronic condition characterized by high levels of cholesterol in the blood, is another common health problem affecting Americans. More than 34 million Americans have high cholesterol. Too much cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease. Most commonly, high cholesterol levels lead to coronary artery disease. Excess cholesterol in the bloodstream in deposited in the walls of blood vessels, particularly in the coronary arteries. Those arteries supply blood to the heart, and the buildup of cholesterol forms clumps that narrow and harden the artery walls. As the clumps, known as plaque, grow, they cause pain and increase the risk of heart attack. One treatment is coronary bypass surgery.

Coronary bypass surgery is performed more than 500,000 times each year in the US. The procedure is expensive, and costs between 46,000 and 150,000 dollars.

As the graph above illustrates, the surgery is costly, especially for Americans! In fact, cardiovascular disease costs the US an estimated $300 billion annually in direct medical costs.

This article could go on (and on), but the three conditions above provide a snapshot of the consequences of chronic preventable illness. The solution is one that’s easy to talk about but difficult to practice. Improving diet, (by choosing better foods, like fruits and vegetables over quick and easy frozen or fast food options) exercising (even just for 30 minutes a day!) and quitting smoking (right this very second is best) will all have a positive impact on your health and your wallet. The resources are out there to help, but first we have to decide to make a change. Over your lifetime, which will be a lot longer if you make smart lifestyle changes, you’ll save money, too.

If you’d like to make a change, or encourage someone you love to do so, these resources are a great place to start!

American Diabetes Association: Preventing Diabetes

American Cancer Society: Help Quitting for Smokers

The Centers for Disease Control: Controlling and Preventing High Cholesterol




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