How the government is banking on prevention to save money

The common refrain is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

However, numerous studies have concluded that prevention doesn’t really save health care dollars. That’s because preventive medicine allows people to live longer, which will make them consume more health resources as they age. That may be a noble goal, but at least let’s be honest about it.

New York Governor David A. Paterson doesn’t seem to be getting the message, as he states, “Preventing illness is a good investment.”

Especially regarding his 18 percent tax on sugary soft drinks, there’s little evidence to show that it will work. This is because the value is difficult to measure: “People who are deterred from buying soda might substitute other sugary drinks. Students deprived of junk food might still nibble some of the candy they sell for school fund-raisers.”

Most health reform initiatives depend on “cost-cutting” from preventive medicine to pay for the plans. But advocate for preventive care because of desire for better health, not for cost savings. Doing so otherwise will only lead to fiscal disappointment.

✓ Join 150,000+ subscribers
✓ Get KevinMD's most popular stories