A room full of legislators, researchers, and advocates gathered at the State House on Tuesday, May 3, to discuss the importance of including community-based prevention in any payment reform measure in order to improve the health of children and families and reduce the medical costs that have been crowding out other spending (see pictures).
“By putting inexpensive prevention measures in place, Massachusetts can save billions in health care costs over the next decade,” said Urban Institute Fellow Dr. Brenda Spillman, a speaker at the event and coauthor of the study Potential National and State Medical Care Savings From Primary Disease Prevention.
Valerie Bassett, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, emphasized the need for re-orienting our health care system, which currently spends 97% of its funds caring for individuals once they’ve already become ill, and only 3% on preventing illness from developing in the first place.
“Community-based prevention in our schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods will prevent illness and injury before they happen, saving us the costs of treatment as well as untold human suffering,” she said. The types of community-based prevention promoted include programs that make fresh, healthy foods available to students in school and create more time for physical activity during the school day, programs that show families how to improve the air quality in their homes to reduce children’s asthma symptoms, and efforts to improve parks and sidewalks to encourage physical activity.
Support for the inclusion of prevention in payment reform was expressed by Senator Richard Moore, Senator Harriette Chandler, and Representative Jason Lewis, while Representatives Steven Walsh, Paul McMurtry and staff from Speaker Robert DeLeo’s office were on hand to learn about the research presented. Representative Lewis also spoke on behalf of the bill he has filed (H. 1498) to fund a Prevention and Cost Control Trust, which would provide a stable source of funding for community health programs that prevent disease and cut health care costs. Grants provided through the Trust would go directly to communities to fund programs that target the costliest, most preventable diseases that affect the largest number of people or burden certain communities.
Also attending were staffers from the Ways and Means and Health Care Financing committees, and from Representatives Henriquez, Wolf, Kahn, Conroy and Atkins, and Senators Joyce, Tolman, and Donnelly.
The campaign for prevention in payment reform is jointly led by the Massachusetts Public Health Association, Health Care For All, the Boston Public Health Commission, and Health Resources in Action. To lend your voice to the effort, you can sign to a letter to legislative leaders here. To learn more about the campaign, please visit the MPHA prevention website.