Monday, January 26, 2009

Selective Outrage?

There appears to be much wringing of hands about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's statement over the weekend that family planning saves the government money. Funny, but no one seemed similarly piqued back in December when the Congressional Budget Office stated that when preventive services reduce mortality among the elderly, "it increases both Medicare’s costs and Social Security spending."

The CBO was specifically talking about adult flu vaccinations in that instance, but it also took a similar stance in the same document on the fiscal consequences of preventive measures overall.

“Savings from preventive services would be offset by certain costs, which could more than offset the savings from prevention or early detection,” the CBO said, adding that such offsetting costs include “the cost of treating unrelated diseases that occur because of an individual’s extended life span (NOTE: italics provided by CBO).”

The notion of discounting prevention because it costs more money by saving and extending people's lives is no small matter. At a time when we're looking for ways to control chronic disases that are causing health care costs to spiral ever upward, such notions ought to get more attention.


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