One of the odd undercurrents of modern conservative thought on health care is that there’s no such thing as preventative health care. Preventative war, on the hand…
Once again, for the millionth time, I’ve heard a candidate (Obama) claim that is going to save money on health care by paying for “preventative health care.” Some triggers of health problems, like car accidents and gun shot wounds, are not preventable. A lot of others, such as heart disease, are. Most Americans know eating more salads and less fatty foods is good preventative health care, but they choose otherwise. Exercise, not drinking to excess, not abusing drugs — all of those are good preventative health care. The idea that some government program is going to suddenly get Americans to start utilitzing preventative health care and result in significant savings is a pleasant, and thoroughly implausible fairy tale.
It’s a fairly stereotypical – albeit incredibly stupid – conservative take on things. We prevent bad things from happening through our own precautions and behavior, and the ill which befalls us is due to our own failure to protect ourselves. The problem is that we have machines and tests which can be used to screen for and detect things either before they happen or at their very nascent stages.
There’s no preventative health care for having someone shoot you. But there is preventative health care for any number of illnesses, cancers, afflictions of old age, hormonal imbalances and any number of other maladies. The human body is a complex biological system – it’s not just about inputs and outputs, it’s about all those organs and tissues and other things that can go wacky for no reason other than a trick of genetics the natural and gradual deterioration of the body.
Even if we are to assume that illness and injury are simply the results of lack of proper care on the part of the afflicted, part of proper care is professional examination and screening. The only way that the above rationale works for turning prevention into mythology is if we assume that the only way a person gets sick is, effectively, by being a bad person – not eating well, exercising, taking their vitamins and saying their (Christian) prayers. Unfortunately for that worldview, medicine has since moved beyond the idea that we are stricken with illness because we’ve incurred the wrath of God.
Well, except at the National Review.