Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Pounds and Ounces in Prevention and Cures

We're all well aware of the old adage that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."  Well, as it turns out - not so!  Margot Sanger-Katz, in a recent New York Times article (Aug 7), has written how the opposite is true.  Turns out, in fact, that "you have to give a lot of people those ounces of prevention to end up with one person who's getting that pound of cure."  As an example, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, 2500 women would have to be screened over 10 years for a single breast cancer death to be avoided.

Prevention is not cheap.  Obamacare mandates prevention coverage.  More and more subscribers are  confirming the status of their general health by taking advantage of these screening options, consequently increasing health care costs.  Providing people with more preventive measures is satisfying and usually reassuring, but expensive and rarely productive.

Early discovery of diseases using preventive screening techniques may result in a longer life - but at a not insignificant expense.  Early intervention for an asymptomatic latent condition results in increased physician visits, increased diagnostic testing,  increased need for the preventive medication, and, of course, an increase in cost. The disease is almost never cured, but its process is prolonged, and death may be delayed.    However, as one survives this condition to live on to an advanced age, the occurrence of other diseases such as Alzheimer's, or other costly illnesses, increases greatly.

Staying healthy is not cheap.  A lot of health care dollars are spent on prevention and a prolonged life.  Preventing diseases is good, new treatments are good.  But none of this occurs without significant cost.

It takes dollars of prevention for one cent of cure!

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