KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Disease Prevention Not Necessarily A Money Saver

The Associated Press reports on the costs of disease prevention: "When it comes to health care spending, an ounce of prevention is seldom worth a pound of cure. ...The truth is, shockingly few prevention efforts actually save the health care system money overall, despite claims by the president and some in Congress."

The AP continues: "Prevention is a good deal, some experts say, if you can buy one year of perfect health for less than $50,000. The most-recommended prevention efforts - like flu shots for adults, Pap smears for women and colon cancer screening for people over 50 - meet that cutoff. But they certainly don't save money. Some say cost is beside the point, since those things save lives at what's deemed a reasonable expense."

"Legislation pushed by Senate Democrats mentions 'prevention' repeatedly. The Senate panel heading up health reform also calls for more research on prevention, creates a new interagency council to coordinate a national health promotion strategy and permits insurers to give incentives for health promotion and disease prevention.

"President Barack Obama as recently as April said investing in prevention 'will save huge amounts of money in the long term.' And it has become almost an article of faith among Republicans, Democrats and business leaders that prevention reduces health care costs. But the Congressional Budget Office last week issued a statement on health care overhaul that dismissed the notion that prevention saves money. Prevention 'would have clearer positive effects on health than on the federal budget,' the CBO said" (Johnson, 6/24).

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