Thursday, August 13, 2015

Almost all Preventive Healthcare Costs More Than It Saves

Here are the key points from an excellent column up over at the New York Times by Margot Sanger-Katz:
  • The argument for cost savings from universal preventive health coverage makes some intuitive sense, but it’s wrong. There’s strong evidence from a variety of sources that people who have health insurance spend more on medical care than people who don’t.  Almost all preventive health care costs more than it saves.
  • There are three main reasons health spending is ticking up:
    1. The aging of the population; people get sicker as they age;  
    2. The improving economy, which will enable more people to afford medical care — or the time off from work it might take to attend to their health needs; and a big one 
    3. Obamacare’s coverage expansion.
  • For the individual patient whose heart attack is prevented by a cholesterol screening, to give one example, that blood test is a cost-saver. But to prevent one heart attack, the health care system has to test hundreds of healthy people — and give about a hundred of them cholesterol-lowering drugs for at least five years. Added together, those prevention measures cost more than is saved on the one heart attack treatment. 
  • There’s also the unavoidable fact that every time you prevent people from dying from one disease, they are likely to live longer and incur future medical expenses.