People with consistently high health care costs experienced a 28% cumulative decrease in physician fees after practicing transcendental meditation.
People with consistently high health care costs experienced a 28% cumulative decrease in physician fees after an average of five years practicing the stress-reducing practice of transcendental meditation (TM) compared with their baseline.
Chronic stress is the number one factor contributing to high medical expenses, and stress reduction may help reduce these costs, according to the study, which was published recently in the American Journal of Health Promotion.
According to the study, a small fraction of people account for the majority of health care costs. The highest spending 10% in the general population incurred 60% to 70% of total medical expenditures annually in the United States. In the Medicare population, the highest spending 5% incurred 43% of total Medicare costs, and the highest spending 25% of seniors accounted for 85% of total expenses.
The new study’s author was Robert E. Herron, PhD, an independent researcher and director of the Center for Health Systems Analysis. Herron was the first to describe the impact of TM on health care costs.
The study compared changes in physician costs for 284 consistent high-cost participants—142 TM practitioners with 142 non-practitioners, over five years in Quebec, Canada. The non-TM subjects were randomly selected from Quebec health insurance enrollees with the same age, sex, and region to match the TM participant profiles.
The TM participants decided to begin the technique prior to choosing to enter the study. In the year before the intervention began, there were no significant differences between the groups in payments to physicians.
During the five-year assessment period, the TM group’s annual rate of change in payments declined significantly (P=0.004), while the comparison group’s payments showed no significant changes. After the first year, the TM group’s payments decreased 11%, and after five years, their cumulative reduction was 28% (P= 0.001).
The primary measure for assessing the effectiveness of TM practice in decreasing medical costs was the fees paid by the Quebec health insurance agency to private physicians in all settings for treating study participants. In Canada and the US, physician payments have been 20% of national health expenditures. The new study’s results are important because doctors’ decisions determine most medical expenses.
“This article has major policy significance for saving Medicare and Medicaid without cutting benefits or raising taxes,” Herron said in a statement. “Almost no intervention for cost containment has decreased medical expenditures by 28% over five years from a baseline.”