Chronic disease is culprit of high medical costs

    Listen up! It’s the cost of chronic care that’s the cause of skyrocketing health care costs.

    One of the country’s largest health care reform campaigns has set its sights on Wisconsin. The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) launched in Wisconsin at the end of February with the intention of refocusing the health care debate both in the state and at the national level.

    Health care reform is certainly not a new issue, and there have been countless attempts to influence policy makers on this subject. The PFCD is notable for a couple of reasons, however.

    The Partnership has no interest in wading into the debate over who is covered or who pays for that coverage. The PFCD is focused entirely on the changing the way health care policy has dealt with preventable chronic disease.

    Because of this narrow focus, the Partnership has an incredibly broad base of support from interest groups that are frequently diametrically opposed on the issue of health care. This coalition is made up political leaders, labor and business interests, medical providers and patient groups, along with leaders from various faith communities.

    These diverse interests have all united behind the belief that, in order to truly make health care more accessible and more affordable, we must focus public policy on the issue that affects the most health care consumers and has the greatest impact on cost.

    Forty-five percent of the population has been diagnosed with chronic illness. Seventy-five to 80 percent of the health care dollar goes to pay for the care of these illnesses. In Wisconsin alone, the estimated direct and indirect costs of chronic illness are $21.3 billion dollars.

    Not only is this the area that has the greatest impact on the debate, it is the issue area where there is the most agreement. We agree that health behaviors and wellness ought to be expected. There must be a focus on prevention, not just with individual consumers of health care, but from those who pay for health care and those who make health care policy as well.

    As Willie Sutton responded when asked why he robbed banks: "…’cause that’s where the money is." You want to decrease the cost of health care? Reduce chronic illness.

    The Partnership believes its time to turn that agreement into action.
    More information on the PFDC can be viewed at

    Arvid "Dick" Tilmar is a partner in Diversified Insurance Services Inc. in Waukesha and is involved with the Wellness Council of Wisconsin and the Well City Milwaukee project.

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