March 19, 2010

ROUTINIZING HEALTH CARE CONSUMPTION WILL LOWER HOW MUCH HEALTH CARE WE CONSUME, TRUST ME:

The Preventive-Care Myth: Most of the time, screenings and checkups don’t save money (Michael Fumento, 3/19/10, National Review)

“Routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies,” insisted President Obama, save “money and it saves lives.” Likewise, Pelosi and House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), writing in USA Today, claimed preventive care “will save money,” specifically citing “regular checkups and tests, such as mammograms and diabetes exams.”

Yet back in August, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) rejected all this. While not assigning a cost estimate, it concluded, “Researchers who have examined the effects of preventive care generally find that the added costs of widespread use of preventive services tend to exceed the savings from averted illness.” That’s because, explained CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf, most people don’t have the ailments for which they’re being screened: “It is usually necessary to provide preventive care to many patients, most of whom would not have suffered that illness anyway.”

A 2008 New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) review of almost 600 papers found that over 80 percent of preventive measures and treatments cost more money than they save. This does indicate there can be cost savings, but neither piece of congressional legislation uses or even allows a cost-benefit approach. A 2009 Health Affairs study came to the same conclusion, finding, contra Obama, that screenings for colorectal and breast cancer are money losers. As for the diabetes exams Pelosi and Hoyer cited, Elmendorf noted that a 2008 study in the journal Circulation found that the recommended prevention activities for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes would cost almost ten times as much as the savings.

In addition to the aforementioned setasides, both bills would make insurance companies pay in full for screening and other services that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has determined have medical benefits that outweigh the risk of harm. The Task Force lists 45, beginning with “Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 19, 2010 1:25 PM
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