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Begich Speaks on Need for Health Care Cost Containment

Joins other Democrats in weekly speeches on need for reform this year

Meaningful health reform must include efforts to control the skyrocketing costs of health care which includes promoting good health and preventing the burden of chronic disease. That was the message from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today when joining nine other freshmen Democratic senators delivering a speech on the Senate floor on the need for health care reform this year.

The freshmen senators organized the series of weekly consecutive floor speeches to focus on the urgency of passing health care reform.  Sen. Begich today focused on the need to focus on prevention as a component of reform.

"If we extend insurance to millions more people but do nothing to slow skyrocketing health care costs, then we will not have reformed anything," Begich said. "We only will have added to the problem of an overburdened, unsustainable health system."

Begich said any health care reform needs to fund programs that support better nutrition, physical activity, reduced tobacco use, and personal responsibility.

"Common sense tells us that smart investments to reduce the burden of chronic disease will make a huge difference. Not just in cost savings, but also in healthier, more productive lives," Begich said.

Begich added that each year in the U.S., $2.2 trillion is spent on health care and 75 percent of all health care costs go to treat chronic diseases, many of which can be prevented. Each state is paying the price, including Alaska:

·         Alaska currently spends $600 million annually for heart disease and stroke hospitalizations;
·         $419 million for treatment related to diabetes;
·         $491 million for medical care related to tobacco use and lost productivity from tobacco-related deaths;
·         Alaska spends $477 million annually on direct medical costs related to obesity

"Let's give more American families the tools they need to take charge," Begich said. "Let's improve our nation's highways and transportation system - and as we do let's make sidewalks and trails part of the package. Let's hire more PE teachers and build upon other proven community programs. Let's save lives and save dollars by keeping tobacco away from kids."

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