An ounce of prevention

“Government prevention programs” figure heavily in Barack Obama’s health care reform plans. The idea, as Obama articulated it during the campaign, is that unhealthy behavior like smoking and excessive eating raise the cost of health care for everyone, so that if the government did more to discourage or prevent such behavior, then we’d all pay less. The notion that we can pay for new health care entitlements through government prevention programs always reminds me of the classic “funding” mechanism for government programs — elimination of waste, fraud,and abuse. Only here, the “abuse” consists of our own habits and behavior.

Sally Pipes, writing in the Examiner, shows that government prevention programs have a poor track record. Moreover, even if they were successful in making us healthier, the effect might very well be increased healthcare spending because of the medical expenses associated with added life years.

I have nothing against the government attempting to discourage unhealthy behavior, as long as it doesn’t get carried away. But the notion that savings achieved through government prevention programs can help us afford providing health care coverage to the uninsured is a sham.

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