The myth that preventive medicine saves money

Great stuff by Dartmouth’s Gilbert Welch. Both Presidential nominees actively flaunt the cost-efficiency of preventive medicine.

In fact, the opposite is true. Prevention costs money:

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.

Dr. Welch likens screening the a car’s check engine light:

Early screening is like the “check engine” light in your car. It can alert you to problems that need to be fixed, but too often it picks up trivial abnormalities that don’t affect performance, like one sensor’s recognizing that another sensor isn’t sensing.

And if we look hard enough, we’ll probably find out that one of your check-engine lights is on . . .

. . . It’s hard to ignore a “check-engine” light. Some mechanics reset them and see if they come on again, but often they lead you to a repair. And you may have had the unfortunate experience that a repair makes matters worse.

I really have nothing to add to this piece. More medicine isn’t necessarily better. But it’s certainly more expensive.

topics: preventive medicine, cost control

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