Improving preventive care

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State data shows that every year, hundreds of thousands of patients are hospitalized, which could have been avoided if they could have seen a doctor sooner. For patients, this situation means more danger, since they arrive in poor health, while for the medical system, it represents higher treatment costs.

The latest numbers from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development show that more than 330,000 adult hospitalizations are classified as “preventable.” These cost $3.6 billion per year. On the flip side of the coin, nationwide, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimated that 26% of patients who are dually eligible for both programs had avoidable hospitalizations, costing taxpayers more than $7 billion in 2011.

Preventive health care is the key to avoiding this situation. However, people do not have access to this type of prevention without insurance coverage. Therefore, Los Angeles, which has almost 2.2 million uninsured adults and minors, has the highest rates of hospitalizations that are considered preventable.

The outlook is even worse if we take into account the fact that last week, Congress cut $5 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

Having an annual physical and contacting the doctor when symptoms of a disease first appear is the only strategy. The federal health care reform, which expands health care coverage, is a valuable contribution to this goal.

Those who oppose the reform should at least support the preventive portion, even if just for the cost savings it entails.