Current system is 'chaos' for those with chronic conditions, senator tells summit

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There needs to be better coordination of care for those with chronic conditions, argued Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) at Thursday's healthcare summit.

People who have "multiple serious conditions" comprise 5% of the Medicare population, but use up 50% of Medicare funding, Conrad told the assembled lawmakers at the Blair House in Washington. One of the few in the room to discuss chronic conditions at length, Conrad mentioned a study in which coordinated care efforts helped reduce the number of prescription drugs taken by participants by up to half. He then spoke of his own experience with his father-in-law, whose multiple conditions required him to take 16 different medications╤eight of which were later discovered to be unnecessary.

"We have a system that is characterized, especially for [the chronically ill], by chaos," Conrad said.

According to a recent report in the Almanac of Chronic Disease, roughly $1.7 trillion was spent treating chronic conditions in 2007 alone. (McKnight's, 5/19/09) Nine out of 10 people aged 65 and older in the U.S. have at least one chronic health condition, and about 77% of seniors have two or more chronic conditions. (McKnight's, 5/30/08)