The Corner

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The Prevention Myth


Ramesh, the article you cite below, aside from saying we cannot be trusted to live in a free society and make our own decisions, also indulges in one of the most common and convenient myths in the health care debate: that prevention and preventative medicine will save money. Politicians (of both parties) say this all the time, but it’s just not true. Preventative care and preventative practices can save lives, and so they are worthwhile, but they will not save money. The data on this could not be clearer. On the whole they increase the cost of health care, both for individuals and for society.

In part that’s because medicine is always a matter of delaying, not actually preventing. The human mortality rate is not budging from the 100% mark, and successfully preventing an acute medical episode to make possible decades of chronic care does not save money. It does, however, make possible those added years of often pretty healthy life spent with family and friends, and so most people would judge it worth the money. Preventative care, provided it can be shown to be reasonably effective and not just a defense against malpractice claims, is well worthwhile. But it is not a solution to our health care financing problems. On the contrary.