She knew it ages ago. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Health care providers and policy wonks are belatedly rediscovering it.
The best way to rein in runaway health care spending is to prevent chronic illness. That’s where we spend 80% of our money so it’s the only target for real cost control. Managing chronic illness can save us billions but preventing it is far better – for individuals, families and for our wallets.
But Bush isn’t listening to Grandma or anyone else with half a brain. He proposes to veto funding for the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) supplemental nutritional program. WIC is one of the most effective federal programs on the book in preventing and avoiding illness. It’s a proven life and money saver. What better program to put on the chopping block?
Let’s assume for a minute that Bush doesn’t care about the health and welfare of infants and mothers – even though that would be immoral. If he’s trying to save money he should increase WIC not cut it. Investing in nutrition and health saves money.
But Bush isn’t the only one who could rethink the nutrition/prevention issue. Massachusetts is renowned for its creative and aggressive use of federally funded health care programs, so much so that Bush targeted it for Medicaid cuts. But someone forgot about Food Stamps. Even though we had over 200,000 families in hunger in 2006, we rank 49th nationally in Food Stamp participation. Less than half of the people eligible for Food Stamps get them.
Everyone’s looking for ways to cut Massachusetts health care costs. A Patrick Administration initiative to help lower income families buy more healthy food might help do the trick. Its a first step toward lowering obesity rates, preventing chronic illness and cutting health care spending.
If Bush really doesn’t care about kids and moms maybe he’ll consider doing it for Grandma.
Barbara Waters Roop, PhD, JD
Health Care for Massachusetts