The Biggest Lie You’ve Ever Been Told About Preventative Care

Preventative care — a type of health care focused specifically on preventing disease — is voluntary. A doctor can’t force you to get blood drawn for testing, or make you join a smoking cessation program. Many people choose not to take advantage of these services because they’re too expensive. A common counter-argument is that preventing a disease now will save you money later in life. Is that true?

Do these services really save you more money in the long-term? Will they really keep you healthy and extend your life? Don’t believe the biggest health care lie you’ve been told — but do take into consideration how you still might benefit anyway.

What is preventative care?

Boy cries as he gets flu vaccination

Flu shots are no fun, but they’re instrumental in keeping you healthy. | Viktor Bartenev/AFP/Getty Images

The term “preventative care” covers a range of health care services — from vaccines to cancer screenings to disease prevention counseling.

Doctors and other medical professionals recommend this type of intervention either to prevent someone from getting sick altogether or to make sure an illness someone already has doesn’t get worse. For example, a flu shot might prevent you from dying from the flu. A referral to a dietitian might prevent your high blood sugar from causing another chronic condition.

Next: Think you’ve never had this type of care? Think again.

Types of preventative care you’ve probably paid for

Maintaining your vision is important preventative care. |  Thinkstock

Even if you’ve never been screened for a chronic condition like cancer, you’ve likely paid for preventative care more than once in your adult life.

Something as simple as an annual physical still costs money, even if your insurance provider ends up paying for most of it. Blood tests, dentist and eye doctor visits, and prescription drugs all technically fall under this health care umbrella.

Next: Are these services free?

Who gets these services?

Sam's club health screening

Who gets access to this care? | Sam’s Club via Facebook

The cost of preventative care depends on the type and where you’re getting it. Technically, anyone can access it — if they can afford it.

Around the start of flu season, for example, you can usually go to your local pharmacy and get a flu shot for cheap. Some services, like screenings to detect cancer or diabetes counseling, are covered by many insurance plans.

Next: Everyone thought the ACA would help decrease spending. Were they wrong?

Affordable care doesn’t decrease spending

Preventative care is more convenient than waiting to see a doctor. | Yakobchuk Olena/iStock/Getty Images

Providers and professionals alike assumed that more health care coverage would decrease costs. Unfortunately, when it comes to health care spending, these expectations fell short.

Some emergency departments noted, for example, an increase in the use of and spending on their services once insurance coverage increased. Once preventative care became more affordable, people used it more. In many cases, it was still more convenient than seeing a regular doctor.

Next: Does a cancer screening test actually prevent cancer?

Does it really prevent disease?

Preventative medicine can stop some disease. | iStock

As with cost, whether or not a service prevents a disease depends on the type — and the person receiving the care. Everyone’s case is different. Catching breast cancer early might reduce the chances that the cancer spreads, but the outcome won’t be the same for everyone.

Unlike the economic assumptions, efforts to prevent disease actually do prevent disease — that’s why they exist. Mammograms are effective in certain cases, and you’re less likely to die from breast cancer if you get them when you’re supposed to than you are if you don’t.

Next: Should you get those tests done after all?

Despite the costs, preventative care can work

Doctor checking a young man's bloodpressure

Chances for staying healthy increase with preventative care. | iStock/Getty Images

Preventative care doesn’t reduce health care costs. However, just because it’s expensive does not mean it isn’t worth it.

Think about it. Has a flu shot ever prevented you from getting the flu? Have prescription drugs ever relieved your symptoms? Has a treatment ever cured you of an illness entirely? While not all types of care work for every person the same way, your chances of overcoming a health problem increase regardless.

Next: Not all prevention will cost you your life savings.

Is there such thing as free disease prevention?

Doctor with an apple

Doctors can recommend steps for living a healthier life. | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Your doctor can offer plenty of costly prescriptions and screening tests to detect and control things like high blood pressure and diabetes. They sometimes make “free” recommendations, too.

Has a physician ever told you to start exercising? Suggested you eat more vegetables? Recommended you drink less alcohol? Not all lifestyle changes cost money. You don’t always need a gym membership or an expensive diet program. Small modifications take time — but chances are, they’re worth the time.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!