CBO Scoring Shortchanges Preventive Healthcare Spending

Margaret Dick Tocknell, 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.

Margaret Dick Tocknell Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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