Preventive Care – Hype or Help?

As Charles Krauthammer reported in his commentary “The myth about Obama’s ‘preventive care'”. 

Desperation time. What do you do? Sprinkle fairy dust on every health care plan, and present your deus ex machina: prevention.

Free mammograms and diabetes tests and checkups for all, promise Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, writing in USA Today. Prevention, they assure us, will not just make us healthier, it also “will save money.”

Obama followed suit in his Tuesday New Hampshire town hall, touting prevention as amazingly dual-purpose: “It saves lives. It also saves money.”

However, prevention is not, as so widely advertised, healing on the cheap. It is not the magic bullet for health care costs.

You will hear some variation of that claim a hundred times in the coming health care debate. Whenever you do, remember: It’s nonsense – empirically demonstrable and CBO-certified.

There has been much discussion from the Administration on the benefits of preventive care. Preventive care is the backbone of their health care plan and the basis of much of their anticipated cost savings in the system.

So, now we know that the cost/savings factor is a smoke screen. But, preventive care is a good thing – right? 

Well, according to doctors on The President’s Council of Bioethics – it’s just hype. On June 28, 2007, the council has a discussion group (Healthcare— Who Is Responsible? The Individual? Society?) below is part of the exchange discussing preventive care (emphasis mine).

DR. FOSTER: I’m not talking about preventive medicine.  I think that’s one of the biggest hypes in the world.  You know, we know how to prevent the most common disease in the world, which is diabetes.  Very simple.  You lose weight.

Who is Dr. Foster? Daniel Foster, M.D. John Denis McGarry, Ph.D. Distinguished Chair in Diabetes and Metabolic Research, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. Yes, his specialty is diabetes.

DR. EMANUEL: First, if you look at the increase in longevity that medical interventions have provided over the last 40 years, you look at those data, almost half —almost half of that increase has occurred from one intervention — lowering blood pressure and lowering blood pressure not by exercise but typically by cheapo beta blockers, diuretics.

So that —I mean, I agree with you. Most of preventive care is hype, but that’s actually preventive care that has done huge amounts. I mean, you know, you saw the mortality rates from stroke just drop five percent a year when those drugs were introduced, and heart disease and renal failure, etcetera.

Yes, that would be Ezekiel Emanuel.

Preventive care for prostate cancer, well Mr. Emanuel could not be more clear on his opinion.

Take-away: According to leaders in the industry, the preventive care we need – lose weight, exercise and take cheapo beta-blockers – maybe throw in an aspirin. Note: cheapo (generic) beta-blockers can cost as little as $10 a month. 

Why is the Administration pushing health care that will not save money or lives?


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