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Increasing the Costs of Healthcare in the US and Free Golf Carts - What?

November 7, 2009
by Tim Tolan
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I usually have a lot to say regarding my search practice and general human capital related content. Not today. I have something on my mind and I have to get a sanity check from my friends at HCI. It’s actually been bothering me most of the week, but I’m just getting around to writing about it.

There have been lots of opinions on the growing deficit in our country and the current proposals to overhaul our healthcare system. Having spent most of my professional career in healthcare IT – I know too well about the enormous costs (and waste) in our current healthcare system. It is badly broken and several key components of our system need to be fixed. No question about it. I don’t have the answers – but I do have an opinion about what we should NOT be doing…I digress.

There are many things that drive up the costs of care that we as Americans can do something about. One very important area where we all can control costs is by staying healthy, exercising and maintaining proper weight control. The annualized cost of obesity in the US is estimated to be a staggering $147B a year – and that’s twice as much as it was only one decade ago! WOW! That’s HUGE (and apparently many of us are larger than we need to be too!). Some estimates indicate that obesity is responsible for 10% of our overall healthcare costs. Again – HUGE!!!

OK – back to my riff – can we (thanks!)? I wanted to set the stage with some metrics about one of the biggest issues we face in the industry we all serve. Obesity. It is something one would think would be addressed in every way to attack the costs side as well as to incentivize and help Americans become healthy, live longer and enjoy life – right? WRONG. I mean dead WRONG.

No – we are going the other way. Until last week I never knew the Stimulus package contained a provision to give rebates for the purchase of golf carts. OH YEAH. No need to walk and exercise when you can ride for free – courtesy of the US Government. One Florida golf cart company promotes (proudly) “ GET A FREE GOLF CART. Or make $2,000 doing absolutely nothing!" Only in America. But not to worry – we only earmarked $300M in rebates for the Clubbers for Cash program. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what the healthcare overhaul will costs us. Oh, I almost forgot. The government really would prefer if you didn’t call them golf carts. They prefer the term “LSV” or low speed vehicles. Unreal.

With the increase in the number of people riding in golf carts instead of exercising it looks like the obesity problem will likely get worse. This idea to launch the Cash for Clubbers Plan was probably not well thought out. How did we come up with this plan? Not our finest financial moment as Americans. Not at all…
Go figure – OK, I’m done.
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Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

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http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

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