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Does Preventive Care Save Money?

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Updated January 30, 2009

Question: Does Preventive Care Save Money?
Answer:

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, no, preventive care does not necessarily help save money. This may seem counterintuitive. After all, if we can prevent people from developing serious illnesses like cardiovascular disease or diabetes through the use of preventive care, won't that relieve some of the financial burden that healthcare places on our nation?

This would be true if preventive care itself did not cost any money. For example, statin drugs may prevent or delay coronary heart disease in some people, but the drugs themselves are costly. The costs associated with other types of patient interventions, such as counseling to quit smoking or vaccinations, can also add up. Sometimes these costs are earned back when disease is prevented. Other times, these interventions cost more than the savings that could potentially be gleaned from prevention.

According to health economists, preventive measures should be targeted toward the populations at most risk of developing disease in order to be cost effective. But even if preventive care doesn't save money, there is some value in it if it improves the health of Americans and makes it easier for people to be productive members of society.

Source:

Joshua T. Cohen, Ph.D., Peter J. Neumann, Sc.D., and Milton C. Weinstein, Ph.D. The New England Journal of Medicine. "Does Preventive Care Save Money? Health Economics and the Presidential Candidates", 2008.

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