As many citizens can attest, the U.S. is a great place to get sick, but a terrible place to stay well. This requires a shift in the way both doctors and patients approach health maintenance and disease prevention. We have a unique opportunity in healthcare reform to decrease costs through health maintenance and wellness, as opposed to when we get sick down the road and incur more costly expenditures through treatment.
Individuals will achieve healthier lifestyles when prevention and wellness programs are accessible and available in their workplace, through their health provider, and in their communities. The key is to incentivize the provision of prevention and wellness programs and consultations- our system currently pays for procedures and office calls when a person is already ill, not for preventative, preemptory activities to encourage healthy lifestyles.
Specifically, we can improve prevention and wellness by giving employers and insurers greater flexibility to financially reward individuals who make efforts to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking, and manage chronic illnesses like diabetes. We should also take efforts to reward high-quality care, instead of encouraging health care providers to order more and unnecessary services. In addition, we must take steps to make healthcare more convenient to folks in underserved areas, both in large cities and in rural areas by expanding access to Community Health Centers and Free Clinics, for example. Finally, we must implement new and innovative treatment programs to better coordinate care between healthcare providers, ensuring that those with chronic disease receive the care they need and do not continue to fall through the cracks in the system.