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    Wednesday, August 08, 2007

    A Pound of Prevention: The old saying holds that an ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure, but in reality it's often the other way around:

    No one really knows whether preventive medicine will save money in the long run, let alone free up the billions of dollars a year needed to help pay for universal health insurance. In fact, studies have shown that preventive care — be it cancer screening, smoking cessation or plain old checkups — usually ends up costing money. It makes people healthier, but it’s not free.

    “It’s a nice thing to think, and it seems like it should be true, but I don’t know of any evidence that preventive care actually saves money,” said Jonathan Gruber, an M.I.T. economist who helped design the universal-coverage plan in Massachusetts.

    ...Jay Bhattacharya, a doctor and economist at Stanford’s School of Medicine, estimates that to prevent one new case of diabetes, an antiobesity program must treat five people — “not cheaply,” he says. Along the same lines, Mr. Gruber found that when retirees in California began visiting their doctor less often and filling fewer prescriptions, overall medical spending fell. People did get sick more often, but treating their illnesses was still less costly than widespread basic care — in the form of doctors visits and drugs. Louise Russell, an economist at Rutgers, points out that programs that focus on at-risk patients cost the least, but even they are rarely free.

    As Dr. Mark R. Chassin, a former New York state health commissioner, says, preventive care “reduces costs, yes, for the individual who didn’t get sick.”

    “But that savings is overwhelmed by the cost of continuously treating everybody else.”


    Exactly.
     

    posted by Sydney on 8/08/2007 10:00:00 PM 1 comments

    1 Comments:

    But we do have lots of excellent evidence that preventive medicine has a much greater effect on aggregate mortality than acute care. Whether it lowers costs is a different question, and it's fair to point out the evidence is not in on this point.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 12:02 PM  

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