American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report
More than $41 billion a year in Medicare costs could be saved if all beneficiaries achieved ideal levels for five to seven heart-healthy habits to reduce cardiovascular risk, according to new research in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
The American Heart Association's Life's Simple 7 is a composite measure of seven modifiable heart-healthy factors: cigarette smoking, physical activity, diet, body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels.
Researchers estimated the annual financial impact of Life's Simple 7 compliance using one year of follow-up data from the Reasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, a national, population-based, longitudinal study. They focused on Medicare claims for 6,262 beneficiaries over the age of 65 with fee-for-service coverage and no prior history of cardiovascular disease.
In primary analyses, researchers found:
- Only 6.4 percent of participants had five to seven ideal factors.
- Participants with fewer Life's Simple 7 scores were more likely to be women, black or be unmarried, or have an annual income less than $20,000 or have less than a high school education.
- Those with higher scores were also less likely to have all-cause and cardiovascular disease-related inpatient or outpatient encounters in the year following their in-home study visit.
- Total inpatient and outpatient healthcare expenditures were $5,016 less for participants with the most ideal heart-healthy factors compared to those with the least number of factors.
By extending estimates from the primary analyses to corresponding 2014 Medicare beneficiaries, researchers found:
- Participants with fewer than five of the heart-healthy measures accounted for more than half of all inpatient costs each year, and approximately one-third of total outpatient claims.
- The potential annualized cost reduction is $41.2 billion for inpatient, outpatient and total expenditures, respectively, if all Medicare beneficiaries had five to seven Life's Simple 7 factors.
She added that the data suggests that public health strategies and initiatives improve the number of Life's Simple 7 factors across the population and age spectrum, even those over 65 years of age "offer the potential for significant cost savings, not just better health outcomes and quality of life."