Article By Michael O'Shea
         Published: January 16, 2005

                         To what extent can exercise help lower my medical costs?

Research by the Dallas-based Cooper Clinic indicates that being a faithful exerciser may cut overnight hospital stays and visits to the doctor—for serious or minor illnesses—by almost half. In a study that spanned 19 years, nearly 7000 men aged 20 to 80 were given a physical that included a maximum treadmill test to determine their level of fitness; a follow-up exam and survey later were administered. The collected data suggest that fit men reduced their medical visits—and, thus, their medical bills—by a hefty 46%.

More important, these findings highlight the influence of regular exercise on wellness in general. Dr. Larry W. Gibbons, a co-author of the study and medical director of the Cooper Clinic, says that the men who were out of shape and eventually became fit were able to lower their chances of being hospitalized by 42%. And, points out Dr. Gibbons, “to get out of the low-fit group took only 30 minutes of physical activity three to five days a week.

There is no question that a routine of physical activity also can help women curtail their medical costs and visits, he adds. With medical expenditures in the U.S. estimated to reach a whopping $3.4 trillion a year by 2013, a lot of money would be saved if that 60% of the population that doesn’t exercise regularly took up physical fitness, Dr. Gibbons notes. Government statistics show that consumers pay 56% of the healthcare costs incurred annually in the U.S. out of their own pockets.

“By following the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommendations for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week, unfit Americans should be able to move to the moderately fit level within six months and improve their risk factors and be healthier overall,” concludes Dr. Gibbons.

             Health Care Spending Reaches Unprecedented Amount

In 2001, Americans spent $1.42 trillion on health care, an unprecedented amount that, analysts say, threatens the country’s ability to pay for medical care.   Health care spending grew at the fastest rate in over 10 years, rising some 8.7 percent from the previous year, and economists have expressed concern that the U.S. economy may not be able to keep up with the rapidly increasing costs. 

According to one report, from 2000 to 2001 health care spending rose 0.8 percent, to make up 14.1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. For eight years prior, health care’s share of the economy had either remained steady or declined.     Analysts say that rising costs could indicate cutbacks in the Medicaid program as well as in the amount of medical coverage that is paid for by employers. Additionally, they forecast changes in policy that will alter or stop the increasing trend.

Already, several governors have announced that benefits will be lowered or enrollment will be restricted for Medicaid and other state-run health programs for the poor.  Moreover, according to a recent survey, more than one in five companies is planning to restrict retiree benefits for current workers. The companies also reported that last year they had raised retirees’ insurance premiums by 20 percent.   Other plans include raises to insurance deductibles, copayments and out-of-pocket costs for both workers and retirees.

Attention to reforms of publicly funded health programs is also expected to increase, according to analysts, along with debate on how to add a prescription drug benefit to the Medicare program.   Prescription costs make up the fastest growing component of the health care market, as spending on drugs rose 16 percent in 2001.

Proposals to alleviate these costs include one that would allow the federal government to pay prescription costs for elderly and disabled persons who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.   Another proposal, an economic stimulus plan announced by House Democrats, includes $10 billion designed to help states cover current Medicaid costs.  Meanwhile, other proposals include plans to help states control spending on prescription drugs and long-term care for elderly and disabled Medicaid patients.

President Bush announced an additional stimulus plan proposal that included $3.6 billion to help states pay for extended unemployment benefits.   According to analysts, lawmakers will likely look for ways to make the health care program more efficient beyond short-term Medicaid payments. 
Reuters Washington January 8, 2003



              10 Reasons to Start Taking Care of Your Own Health Issues

Below are excerpts from various articles related to our present and future health care crisis.  The picture they paint is cause for all of us to be concerned about the future.  These statistics below will make you see red.

(1)  In 2003, Medicare and Medicaid outlays accounted for 3.9% of the gross domestic product.  The Congressional Budget Office projects spending for Medicare and Medicaid could grow to as much as 21.3% of the gross domestic product by 2050.

(2)  Between 1987 and 2002, the proportion of private health spending attributable to    obesity increased more than tenfold researchers report, from $3.6 billion to $36.5 billion.

(3)  The CDC reported that diabetes jumped 33% nationally, to 6.5%, between 1990 and 1998.  The rise crossed races and age groups, but was sharpest – about 70% - among people ages 30 to 39.

(4)  Today, 6.3% of American live with diabetes, but by the year 2050, one in three will have the disease while as many as one in two minorities will live with diabetes.

(5)  In 2002, one in ten healthcare dollars and one in four Medicare dollars went towards diabetes care.  The cost of diabetes in America in 2002 was at least $132 billion.

(6)  One study conducted by North Carolina based Chenoweth & Associates estimates that obesity costs California $11.2 billion annually in lost productivity, $10.2 billion in medical care and $388 million in workers’ compensation ($21.788 billion total).

(7)  Medicaid spending, which has increased almost 50% in the past 4 years, is among the fastest growing items in state budgets, and drug spending is one of the fastest growing components of Medicaid.

(8)  The percentage of obese United States adults increased from 23% in the early 1990s to more than 30% during 1999 to 2002.

(9)  Drug spending will account for 14.7% of total health expenditures by 2011, compared with 9.4% in 2000, they said.

(10)  Annual healthcare spending by 2011 will rise to $9,216 per person in America – double the amount spent per capita in 2000

And these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the negative statistics that are being generated every month.  Now is the time for each and every one of us to take charge of our own health issues.  By focusing on our physical health, we greatly increase our chances of living a longer, more prosperous life, and, along the way, having the opportunity to enjoy that journey so much more.


"In 2003, Medicare and Medicaid outlays accounted for 3.9% of the gross domestic product.  The Congressional Budget Office projects spending for Medicare and Medicaid could grow to as much as 21.3% of the gross domestic product by 2050"

No one can ready the above statement and not come to the realization that when it comes to healthcare, the financial landscape is dire.  Realize that the above statement does not include social security, defense spending or any of the other mirade government programs.  You absolutely must start taking care of your own 'pond'.   Below is data that will bring the point home even more directly.  Enjoy the read........if you dare.

              Obesity is Costing Corporate America Big Bucks

Obesity is associated with numerous health risks that include diabetes, heart disease, and cancer to name a few. The perception of risk is often assumed to begin and end with the individual. Unfortunately, obesity affects everyone and the effects on corporate America’s bottom line have recently been documented.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center recently reported the results of a study of over 12,000 employees of the University. The researchers evaluated worker’s compensation claims, medical costs, and lost work time due to injury or illness comparing obese (BMI >40) and non-obese (BMI <24.9) workers. The results are astounding.
The researchers reported that obese workers filed double the number of worker’s compensation claims, or 12 claims per 100 workers. Medical costs for obese employees exceeded $51K per 100 workers, a 7-fold increase over non-obese workers. Obese workers lost nearly 184 days due to illness/injury per 100 employees compared to just 14 per 100 non-obese workers, a 13 fold increase.

This study emphasizes the need for employers to target eating behaviors and physical activity for employees in an effort to reduce the costs of business. There are many opportunities for fitness professionals in corporate fitness. If the trend toward greater numbers of obese Americans continues, the economic consequences could be drastic.
Ostbye, T. et al (2007) Obesity and Worker’s Compensation: Results from the Duke Health and Safety Surveillance System. Archives of Internal Medicine 167: 766-773.