There’s the adage about having too much of a good thing, and in the case of Americans, this may certainly be true of the lifestyle. Even as the field of healthcare enters into a much more uncertain period with regards to the fate of the ACA, one thing remains clear; we’re looking down the barrel of what may be an inevitable surge in healthcare spending.
And the reason for this? Ironically, it may be best described as “first world” problems, in the form of chronic diseases arising from the lifestyle of a typical resident of a developed nation.
Accumulation of Illness
In a report on chronic diseases, it was found that by the year 2030, 83 million Americans will be diagnosed with three or more chronic diseases. This will result in approximately 42 trillion dollars spent on healthcare between 2016 and 2030, of which two trillion will be devoted to actual medical treatment. Currently, 59% of Americans have at least one chronic disease.
In the majority of these cases, the chronic illnesses are not just treatable, they are often preventable. However, current lifestyle choices often contribute to the proliferation of these illnesses.
Having It Too Good
Chief among the chronic illnesses that are on the rise are hypertension and lipid disorders, such as high cholesterol. High cholesterol is typically the result of dietary choices, and while Americans easily have the option to eat healthier, as they have a wide range of good dietary choices readily available, they choose not to do so, resulting in the rise of these disorders.
Another problem that is on the rise is in the mental health arena as anxiety continues to be a major problem, with women, in particular, showing increases in incidence since 2008. These conditions show no signs of diminishing and require long-term treatment to address, and this is compounded by another first world issue.
Age & the ACA
Even as the healthcare industry pivots to being more efficient and experiments with newer techniques, such as telemedicine, there are new challenges coming that will put that increased spending for chronic illnesses to the test. The first and most compelling is obviously the ACA uncertainty. The US government continues to struggle with what to do with it; whether to continue to try to change it or try to strip it out entirely and make people entirely responsible for their own medical finances.
The other, more long-term concern is the result of better healthcare; an aging population. As Americans grow older, their vulnerability to more chronic illnesses increases as conditions like arthritis or Alzheimer’s require long-term care. An aging population is both a sign that medical treatments are working to increase lifespans, but simultaneously puts more of a strain on medical care, as seniors generally require more attention than younger demographics.
Because of this, it looks like spending on healthcare is set to unavoidably rise with each successive generation of Americans. It will be important to make sure the field is ready for it in every capacity, including good revenue cycle management for whatever finance systems are in play.
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