Prevention is not the panacea for public health care

This is why I love Charles Krauthammer. May he live well for many years to come, because he is one of the most vital voices of opposition.

He takes on with substance and style what has nearly made the jump from mantra to conventional wisdom: the idea that preventive care cut costs.

It does, for the individual who detects and treats injury or illness sooner rather than later. But it does not, in the aggregate, save money for society in terms of a public plan.

A bit from the piece, via Real Clear Politics:

How can that be? If you prevent somebody from getting a heart attack, aren’t you necessarily saving money? The fallacy here is confusing the individual with society. For the individual, catching something early generally reduces later spending for that condition. But, explains [CBO chief Doug] Elmendorf, we don’t know in advance which patients are going to develop costly illnesses. To avert one case, “it is usually necessary to provide preventive care to many patients, most of whom would not have suffered that illness anyway.” And this costs society money that would not have been spent otherwise.

Will this reality prevent (get it?) Obama and company from spouting this rhetorical talking point? No. But at least we now know the facts.


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