RE “THE secret benefit of health insurance” (Ideas, June 23):
Leon Neyfakh’s article states that “having medical coverage makes people healthier.” He goes on to indicate that expanded coverage will provide opportunity for more doctor visits which will provide more preventive care, thus potentially saving money.
I take exception to that thinking. Immunizations for communicable diseases reduce illness at low cost and are a good example of cost-effective prevention, albeit on a small scale.
On the other hand, colonoscopies and mammograms allow early detection of disease and save lives, but do not save money. The aggregate costs of screening are greater than the costs of treating those found with the disease. Putting a person on an expensive cholesterol drug to prevent heart disease would be better viewed as treatment rather than prevention; here too, cost exceeds any measurable savings.
What intervention has greater impact on prevention and truly saves money? The one you do — regular aerobic exercise, and eating a healthy diet. This has no health care costs. It reduces heart disease better than a statin pill, reduces the likelihood of needing an angioplasty, reduces diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, colon cancers, orthopedic injuries, etc.
High health care costs stem from patients demanding and receiving expensive tests, medications, and procedures. With the Affordable Care Act adding more insured patients to the health care system, the cost of health care can only increase.
The writer is the founder of HeartVentures LLC and former chief of cardiology at Framingham Union Hospital.