EDITORIAL: Obamacare’s preventive mandates don’t deliver

Before the not-so-affordable Affordable Care Act was forced upon the American people, some economists, elected officials, medical experts and pundits repeatedly made the case that giving everyone access to “free” preventive care with no co-payments would create overwhelming demand for a health care system already short of providers, drive up insurance costs and provide little to no health benefits for Americans.

Democrats, including President Barack Obama, countered by saying that Obamacare would lead to substantial savings because increased access to preventive care ultimately would result in fewer treatments for illness and disease, as a wide variety of health issues would be identified and dealt with more quickly.

Guess who was right?

As reported by NBC News, new research indicates that false-positive mammograms — X-ray screenings that incorrectly show a woman having breast cancer — cost the nation $4 billion each year. NBC also cited another new study, which shows that while new treatments for women who really do have breast cancer may cost more, the treatments are actually helping them survive longer than older treatments. According to NBC, the two studies, published in the journal Health Affairs, “add some data to the debate about whether wider screening is worthwhile and to the discussion about health care costs in general.”

And what about annual physical examinations, the sure-fire way to maintain health? Their value was scrutinized by a NPR report. Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, a primary care physician and professor of health policy at Harvard Medical School, argued “we should move forward with the elimination of the annual physical,” and that patients should only go to the doctor if something is really wrong, or if they need to have an important preventive test like a colonoscopy.

According to NPR, the Society for General Internal Medicine put annual physicals on a list of things doctors should avoid completely for healthy adults. Why? Because, as Dr. Mehrota points out, annual physicals are expensive. While each visit usually only costs insurers around $150, the sheer number of people having physicals means the costs add up fast.

“We estimate that it’s about $10 billion a year, which is more than we spend as a society on breast cancer care,” says Dr. Mehrotra. “It’s a lot of money.”

The costs associated with false-positive mammograms and unneeded annual physicals are but two (of many) reasons why mandated comprehensive care simply doesn’t work. Why should we all be forced to pay higher premiums and have higher deductibles for benefits that are of little or no medical benefit?

Market forces, not mandates, would remedy what ails our health care system. If the cost of routine, clinic-based care were more competitive, Americans could afford to pay for screenings out of pocket while having less expensive insurance to protect themselves against true health emergencies.

As the folks at Hot Air surmise, now that “the government is indirectly footing the bill for diagnostics through ObamaCare subsidies, expect a lot more experts to ‘discover’ that these tests are now bad for you.” More and more people will find themselves denied for more and more tests, and only the wealthy will be able to afford access to preventive care.

It goes without saying that a massive rewrite — or, better yet, a full repeal — of Obamacare is long overdue.

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