Monday, August 17, 2009

Health costs revisited

In July 2008 I wrote how preventative health care, such as screening and early treatments, actually increase the total cost to society for medical treatments.

Now, there is some more evidence in my corner. The US Congressional Budget Office is now on my side, with plenty of research to support the claim that preventative medicine adds cost to the health care system, rather than reducing costs.

Who would have thought that my original ideas (I had not read any of the studies that this letter refers to) would reflect reality!

I stated it like this:

What has happened is that improvements in medical treatments have enabled us to live longer lives, and because of much of the preventative treatments, we die less suddenly then ever, increasing these 'death postponing' medical costs. Because we can diagnose more problems, we can visit doctors more readily, and we treat more medical conditions then ever. Thus, it is because of the very efficiency and effectiveness of medical technology that our demand for it has grown, both during our lives, and in our ‘prolonged death’.

And the CBO summarise one study like this:

The researchers found that those steps would substantially reduce the projected number of heart attacks and strokes that occurred but would also increase total spending on medical care because the ultimate savings would offset only about 10 percent of the costs of the preventive services, on average.

Remember, we all die. If you prevent someone from having a heart attack, although you may prolong their life, they will die from something else, and most likely, they will need further medical treatment for that ailment.

And now the economics blogosphere has picked it up here.

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