Yesterday we growled, and compared the defense of the “public option” health care alternative by Arlington County’s Congressional representative, Rep. Jim Moran (D) with the Indian Health Service, which the federal government has been running for decades.
Today, let’s look at Rep. Moran’s defense of preventive care in the House version of health care reform legislation, i.e., H.R. 3200 (requires Adobe). During Thursday’s Washington Post online forum with Rep. Moran, a Falls Church resident asked, “Are there any provisions that focus on preventative care over medical treatment after the fact?” Rep. Moran 's answer, “Preventive care will be fully reimbursed and emphasized under the reform bills.”
But in today’s Washington Examiner, Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute and author of “The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care,” writes, “An ounce of prevention is no cost-saving cure.” More specifically, she writes:
“Yet there are some inconvenient truths facing would-be reformers who tout prevention as if it were a bottle of "Dr. Feel-Good's Incredible Health-Promoting, Cost-Saving Elixir." The facts suggest that Americans have plenty of reason to be reluctant to swallow what politicians are trying to sell.
“The most recent warning came from the Congressional Budget Office. The nonpartisan agency has issued a study that debunks the claim that preventive care for all Americans would translate into substantial savings for the federal government.
“To the contrary, the CBO noted, ‘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.’”
Let’s look at just one of the examples Pipes provides:
“The CBO isn't alone in its assessment. According to Alan Garber, the director of the Center for Health Policy at Stanford University, "the few studies that have compared preventive care to treatment have shown that either form of care can be cost-effective -- or not -- depending on how it's used. There's no magic to the idea of prevention, except that it sounds good."
“In a report published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers analyzed some 600 studies done since 2000 assessing the value of preventive care. They concluded that although about 20 percent of preventive measures -- including flu shots and colorectal cancer screenings -- did save money, "the vast majority reviewed in the health economics literature do not."
“One reason why? Prevention programs spend a lot of money targeting people who are perfectly healthy. Say, for example, that in screening 500,000 people, health workers find one person whose ailment can be pre-empted before it develops into a costly, life-threatening condition.
“They might save, say, $50,000 on late-stage treatment for that patient. But they will have spent much more than that to test the other 499,999 people who were just fine.”
You're 0-2, Rep. Moran. Batter up!