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A Practical Analysis of the Cost of Health Care

Updated on December 29, 2009

A Practical Analysis of the Cost of Health Care

In this analysis we demonstrate that preventive medicine does not necessarily save money in the long run.

A government cannot legislate healthy citizens, but many believe that federal intervention is necessary to provide citizens with access to health care. Health care professionals generally endorse preemptive tests such as mammograms and prostate exams. Such exams identify potentially serious health conditions at a stage when they can be addressed and possibly even corrected.

We assume for the purposes of this analysis that the government derives all income through taxes and fees. In other words, funds are confiscated from one segment of the population and subjectively distributed to another segment. Whether or not this is legal or even moral is not debated here.

Preventive medicine is a prostate exam every year, a mammogram each year, etc. This author not opposed to preventive medicine. We simply quantify the monetary costs to society for these two tests when they are provided by the government to a large part of the populace.

Naturally, an individual who skips his prostate exam only to be struck down by cancer would look back and say "wow, it sure would have been cheaper to have that 5 minute test every year rather than pay for chemotherapy treatments." However, asking the government (us) to pay for so-called 'free' exams for everyone will cost much more to society as a whole.

A Cost Analysis

For example, breast cancer occurs in women at an overall rate of 123.8 per 100,000 women, or 0.1238 percent (about 1/10 of one per cent). Generally, mammograms are recommended for women over the age of 30, all other factors being equal. Relying on, there are 151,627,727 females in the country, of which about 48% are over 30. That's about 72,781,308 mammograms for the government to subsidize every year.

Assuming $250 per mammogram, we will be paying $18,195,327,240 per year, or 18 billion dollars. We know that the mammogram procedure is purely diagnostic; it does not delay or prevent the onset of any disease or condition.

Assuming that .1238 per cent of the women actually contracted the cancer, that works out to about 90,103 cases per year.

That's a big number and it's horrifying to imagine the suffering that is behind that number.

Medicare reports an average treatment cost per case of $20,964. If the government subsidizes the entire cost of all treatment for all 90 thousand cases, that works out to a total of $1,888,924,728. That's about 2 billion dollars, or 1/9 of the cost of the preventive procedure.

I'm not a doctor. I'm just presenting the numbers. We see from this (narrow) analysis that preventive medicine does not necessarily save money in the long run.

Sources: … CONTEXT=st … -soar.html


Some types of preventive medicine, when analyzed in the context of a government subsidized health care program, does not offer a cost savings. This analysis is extremely narrow and omits other benefit factors such as the emotional benefit of diagnostic tests and the increased awareness of diseases that claim so many otherwise healthy people.


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    • mpurcell10 profile image

      mpurcell10 8 years ago from Arkansas

      We need a better health care system with out a doubt. I am without it now and need it. My husband was dropped after his heart attact and now noone will touch him. But your right the number are crazy. If you have breast cancer in you family or if you feel something you should not need to beg it should be availble to you but for me a lady with no family history who does not feel anything even though I am over the age I am not worried about an exam. If you look further most mammograms do not see anything unless it is far enough along. You have to feel it before it actually picks it up,not always but most times. That was told to me by my doctor.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @Brightside: Thanks for writing. I just presented numbers; I did not express an opinion. If you want a correct interpretation of the US constitution on this issue, please read this:

    • Brightside profile image

      Brightside 8 years ago

      Is not the extra money worth the people that we may save by catching the cancer in its earliest stages, when it is the most cureable? A government run health care plan will not only cut costs but also increase the number of people who die every year from this disease. Is it worth it?

      Also search cancers being cured, in which you will find the majority of the times cancer is cured, it will have been caught early on. Because cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body, which means the sooner the detection of abnormality, the smaller and less powerful the mass of distorted tissue.

      And obviously if you are making this point, you must have an opinion. I believe if you were completely neutral with the matter you would have presented the pros and cons OF BOTH SIDES.

      And Aya Katz, what is the probability that the cancer is slow growing versus fast growing? If you could find that statistic I would be grateful. By looking at one you cannot tell if the cancer is fast or slow growing, correct?. So is it not worth it for the percent that have the fast growing cancer to have frequent tests. . . even if it costs the government money? The government would have quite a bit more to spend if they did not waste so much of it, and could be productive such as finding a cure for cancer. . . of which the cancer would most likely still need to be caught early on.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Thanks, Doc. You a friend of 007?

    • profile image

      Doctor Not 8 years ago

      Good data. We still need better health care though.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      More people should read this and comment on it.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Thanks, !

    • profile image 8 years ago

      you may not be a doctor Nicomp but statistical study which relies on maths is what doctors and health professionals would rely on anyway and personally, I think numbers (studied over time in some cases) are persuasive so thanks for this interesting hub.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Good point. I'm not a doctor, closer to a mathematician. I didn't know there were cancers that grow that slowly.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks

      Nicomp, interesting facts. I see your point.

      Here is another one: early detection helps with slow growing cancers, but does not really affect mortality from fast growing cancers. Why? Because by the time you detect it, with a fast growing cancer, it's too late. This means that most of the people who are going to be helped by early detection may not have needed treatment for years, and might have died of a completely unrelated cause before the cancer began to affect their health and quality of life.


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