EDITORIAL: The myth of preventive care

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House Democrats are preparing to vote as early as Friday on a massive package to sneak the camel’s nose under the health care tent. The price tag is going to bust the bank. The legislation makes a number of faulty spending assumptions that will ensure the plan far exceeds its already bloated estimate of more than $1 trillion.

Both the House bill and its Senate companion pay for most of the measure by increasing taxes and cutting Medicare and Medicaid spending. President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also claim that more spending on preventive medicine and wellness services will help cover the tab by saving money down the road. It’s not that simple.

In an August letter to Rep. Nathan Deal, Georgia Republican, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas W. Elmendorf cited various comprehensive studies to explain how spending to expand access to cancer screenings or cholesterol management programs will not save money. The New England Journal of Medicine published one major study last year that was based on the review of hundreds of previous preventive care studies, and it found that less than 20 percent of such services saved money. The rest added to the cost of medical care.

“Although different types of preventive care have different effects on spending, the evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall,” Mr. Elmendorf wrote. One result will be higher Social Security and Medicare spending that Democrats ignore in their proposals.

Despite evidence to the contrary, Mrs. Pelosi has gone so far as to claim that increasing spending on preventive medicine could pay for health care legislation all by itself. She told PBS News Hour in July that tax increases and benefit cuts may not ever be needed “because the prevention will provide so much saving.”

Democratic leaders are making obviously false claims about cost savings to sell their government health care plans. It’s frightening to contemplate what is being overlooked in the 1,900-page bill. Nobody who votes for it can honestly say he knows what’s in it. With Democrats trying to rush a vote on the bill, the total impact won’t be known until it’s too late.

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