Overselling Preventive Medicine

"By emphasizing prevention….we can reduce health care costs."

                                                                                    – Sen. John McCain

"In the absence of a radical shift towards prevention and public health, we will not be successful in containing medical costs."
                                                                                    – Sen. Barack Obama

Yet every academic study of this question has concluded the opposite:

It boils down to encouraging the well to have themselves tested to make sure they are not sick. And that approach doesn't save money; it costs money. [link]


When will they ever learn?

Comments (1)

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  1. Devon Herrick, National Center for Policy Analysis says:

    I have even heard hospital executives and public health advocates repeat this myth. Presumably, if everyone went to the doctor more often we’d save money by avoiding all kinds of costly-to-treat complications. My first employer-sponsored health plan even worked this way. As a young accountant working for a hospital system, I had first-dollar coverage through the hospital-owned HMO. Some 800 doctors worked with a one-mile radius of the hospital. There was no co-pay, office visits were free. We were encouraged to make primary care visits as often as we wanted. The goal was to catch serious conditions early.
    It didn’t work – excess utilization of primary care did not reduce the costly complications of advancing age and poor lifestyle choices. Indeed, about two-thirds of medical expenditure is related to lifestyle — including heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and certain cancers. However, we’re not going to reduce spending by screening everyone sooner. Nor are we going to reduce expenditures by forcing every one to have an annual physical. However, we could reduce some of the costs if everyone followed a healthy diet, exercised and refrained from smoking. But that’s something a health care system is powerless to require.
    Which health care interventions actually save more money they cost? There are but a few: immunizations for kids, smoking cessation programs, prenatal care for at-risk mothers, beta blockers for diabetics. There are a few others, but the vast majority of medical interventions administered to broad-based populations have a positive cost per life year saved. Although, some of those years are well worth the cost!