Does preventive medicine save money or cost more in the long run?

It depends if you see the glass half empty or full.

I’ve written on several occasions that there is little evidence that preventive medicine saves money, despite what some politicians say or believe. A recent study from Health Affairs provides more clarity, as it related to the long-term implications of diabetes.

There are two decidedly different takes on the article. First, according to The New York Times’ Prescriptions, it only confirms the belief that preventive medicine actually costs more money: “The report projected that people with Type 2 diabetes who participated in a disease management program to prevent serious complications would cost the federal government slightly more money over 25 years than they would have without any intervention.”

But wait, says the ACP’s Bob Doherty, that’s actually better news than what we’d been hearing.

He argues that most of the cost savings estimates from the Congressional Budget Office only spans out 10 years. So, this new data means that, “over 25 years, aggressive interventions to control diabetes almost pay for themselves.”

The bottom line, however, remains the same. Whether you’re looking out 10 years or 25, there isn’t much evidence that preventive care saves money. I agree that we still should do what we can to prevent disease according to evidence-based practices, but advocating prevention to cut costs is misguided.

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