Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Health | Opinion
Sen. Murkowski: Alaska Native preventive care


"We are all familiar with the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to healthcare in America, it shouldn’t be just a saying, but a rule to live by. Type 2 diabetes rang up $174 billion in costs in 2007. Obesity has direct and indirect costs of $123 billion each year.

Heart disease and stroke take the lives of nearly 2,400 Americans each day, with a projected cost of $448 billion in 2008. The unfortunate reality of these statistics is that much of the $2.3 trillion that America spent on health care in 2007, not to mention the potential loss of life, could have been averted through preventive healthcare.

To borrow a quote from my colleague Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), we do not have a health care system in the United States; we have a sick care system. Chronic disease affects some 133 million Americans and accounts for 70 percent of all deaths and more than 70 percent of all healthcare costs. In 1996, America spent $1 trillion on healthcare; in 2006 we spent $2.1 trillion. If we continue to ignore the importance of prevention-focused healthcare, we will be faced with sicker patients, a more costly health-care system, and insurance premiums that price individuals, families and employers out of the health insurance market. That is something this nation cannot afford.

In looking to preventive healthcare, the Southcentral Foundation in Alaska deserves recognition for centering its healthcare model on prevention and coordinated primary care. The Southcentral Foundation is an Alaska Native-owned healthcare organization serving Alaska Native and American Indians. Their Patient Centered Primary Care model gives patients the ability to directly contact their provider via phone or e-mail and to make same-day appointments. The doctor and clinical team provide the expertise, keep track of preventive matters, and provide healthcare options, but it is the patient-owner who is in control and makes the decisions. This program has achieved considerably high success rates: a 40 percent drop in urgent care and emergency department utilization, and a 30 percent drop in days in the hospital. They have increased childhood immunizations by 25 percent and diabetes care is in the 95th percentile for national standards, not to mention a reduction in asthma care and HIV care admissions to one-third the numbers experienced in the past. This all amounts to a 91 percent patient satisfaction rate."

Get the Story:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski: Companies, Alaska Native group wisely embrace preventive care (The Hill 4/16)