Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Health care reform shorts: what screenings are good for

Since our rulers seem to be dicking around again with Medicare and Medicaid funding so as to protect rich people from paying their fair share for the common good, it's refreshing to run across someone who remembers what doctoring is for.

We're often told that improved preventative care will save the health system (and insurance companies) lots of money. And we tend to believe it. Heck, I'm running off this morning for a mammogram suggested by my HMO. But Aaron Carroll reports on a study of the fiscal impact of getting people to stop smoking that says this conventional wisdom ain't so. If smokers quit, they do live an additional 3.7 years (yeah!) but the added life just means they cost more in medical bills.

[The study] also makes the point that the increased spending is modest. I think that’s besides the point. We should get people to quit smoking because it will make their lives better and their lives longer. If that causes them to cost the health care system more eventually, so be it. I’m a doctor, and making lives better and longer is why I got into this. It’s also what the health care system is for. That should be the focus. It’s not always about saving money.

1 comment:

Civic Center said...

Thank you for confirming what I have always suspected. When the anti-smoking zealots insist that smokers are a burden because of their extra usage of the health care system, my suspicion has always been that they died earlier and were less of one. The reasons to quit are what the doctor prescribed in your post.