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CBO Scoring Shortchanges Preventive Healthcare Spending

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, September 26, 2012

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) has a bone to pick with the Congressional Budget Office, the independent, nonpartisan agency that performs economic and budget analysis for government programs.

Congress relies on the CBO's analyses in making policy decisions. But the physician-turned-congressman is unhappy with the way the CBO scores legislation that deals with preventive healthcare spending.

In a telephone conversation, Burgess explains that by law, the CBO must only look 10 years out when it develops cost estimates on how a piece of legislation will affect spending and revenues.

The problem is that the advantages of preventive healthcare spending for chronic diseases do not always fit neatly into that time frame. Programs to reduce the obesity rate, or to trim the increase in diabetes cases, or to keep diabetic blood sugars under control may need longer than 10 years to begin to demonstrate their full economic value.

Burgess notes that chronic disease care accounts for 70% of healthcare spending, or about $1.6 trillion annually. In this era of care coordination and care management, he explains, the savings from preventive care is "undisputed" by experts.  Now, Burgess says, it is time for CBO analysis to reflect how preventive healthcare spending can begin to contain costs and provide long-term savings.

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1 comments on "CBO Scoring Shortchanges Preventive Healthcare Spending"


Jacob Kuriyan (9/27/2012 at 10:27 AM)
Congressman Burgess is on the right track but his solution is a poor one. He is right in demanding CBO, HHS and CMS to share their data and calculations of savings estimates from preventive care programs. Only then can other experts comment on how reasonable they are and what other adjustments are needed. This happens all the time in economics. The Bureau of labor statistics releases the data and economists nationwide interpret them. The public can then choose the results that sound the most reasonable. But he is wrong in trying to ask CBO to extend the scope of their calculatuions to beyond 10 years. That is absolutely unnecessary. We can estimate the savings from preventive care programs for much shorter periods. But it requires inegnuity and skill.