There is no free lunch or “free” preventive care

Excerpt from the email announcement:

“Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today that the Affordable Care Act provided approximately 54 million Americans with at least one new free preventive service in 2011 through their private health insurance plans. Secretary Sebelius also announced that an estimated 32.5 million people with Medicare received at least one free preventive benefit in 2011, including the new Annual Wellness Visit, since the health reform law was enacted.”

Sorry, but these services were not, technically speaking, “free” to recipients. Of course SOMEBODY paid for them! If it was a private health plan, then the cost came in premium hikes. If it was a government plan, then the costs came from the taxpayer or at the expense of other benefits.

How to illustrate it? Let’s say the U.S. Congress decided that people needed to eat more fruits and salads. OK, noble goal. However, suppose the mechanism to push it was to mandate that every restaurant meal served had to include a “free” salad or fruit cup? Alright, so what does the restaurant do in response? In the real world they add a buck to the price of the Happy Meal or Grand Slam Platter to cover the “free” side dish they now have to include.

Well, the same is true in health care. Your “free” service comes out of premiums paid by you or the employer, the taxpayer, or in some other service you don’t get or that now costs more.

The policy of promoting prevention can be noble and some prevention services really are worthy, but it is dishonest to refer to it is “free”. It isn’t.


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