How Can Preventive Care Reduces Healthcare Costs

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
March 29, 2022
Older man filling out papers

For centuries, doctors and public health officials have pointed to Ben Franklin’s famous mantra, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Can you really save money by preventing disease?

What is Preventive Care

Preventive care detects serious diseases at an early stage, before any symptoms become apparent, so a doctor can begin treating the disease. Intervening as soon as possible usually leads to better health outcomes and saves the patients and the insurance company a lot of money. This is why Medicare and commercial insurance companies cover a wide range of early detection screenings such as:

  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • EKG
  • Blood Sugar
  • Bone density
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Pap smear
  • Mammogram
  • Prostate cancer
  • Colonoscopy
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Glaucoma
  • Substance abuse

Can Healthcare be Cost Preventive?

The macroeconomic debate is mixed; some economists argue that people who save money with prevention in the short term may live longer lives and thus cost more money later. When it comes to money in your pocket, there’s little question that prevention has the potential to save you lots of money. 

Suppose you develop colon cancer. Your lifetime risk of developing colon cancer as a man is 4.3%, 4% for a woman. 

The average cost for treating colon cancer is $60,321. As a patient, you may not pay all of that especially if you’re covered by commercial insurance or Medicare. Out-of-pocket costs like copays, coinsurance, deductibles and prescriptions will still hurt your budget. 

Then there are the opportunity costs: 

  • Lost income due to time off work for treatment
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Wasted time at appointments

Ironically, colon cancer is one of the easiest cancers to identify and treat. It’s also preventable with good lifestyle choices:

  • Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains.
  • Get plenty of exercise.
  • Manage your weight.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Avoid alcohol.

The key to reducing costs associated with colon cancer is early detection. Colon cancer screening, which is recommended for all adults aged 45 to 75, is not technically prevention it’s early detection, and it can save a lot of money and trouble. 

Overall, cancer costs American patients around $16.22 billion each year and another $4.87 billion in lost time. The costs go up substantially when cancer is caught later; however, cancer isn’t the only thing you have to worry about when it comes to medical expenses. 

Heart Disease

If you don’t prevent heart disease and ultimately suffer a heart attack, Medicare estimates you will spend 60% more out of pocket annually versus someone who hasn’t had a heart attack. That 60% is expensive — $12,000 a year, every year, for the rest of your life. Even if you don’t have a heart attack, out-of-pocket costs to manage heart disease average nearly $5,000 a year.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is also expensive. Patients average nearly $2,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses on everything from prescription co-pays to extra doctor visits. Similar to heart disease, it’s largely preventable through lifestyle modifications and screenings. New recommendations for Type 2 diabetes screenings lowered the screening age from 45 to 35 who are overweight or obese as defined by having a BMI higher than 25 but no symptoms of diabetes.

An Integrated Approach to Preventative Medicine with MDVIP 

MDVIP-affiliated physicians see fewer patients and take and integrated approach to healthcare, so they have time to focus on prevention and the patient's overall health. That effort starts with the MDVIP Wellness Program, which includes comprehensive, advanced health screenings and diagnostic tests that have been shown to help detect issues earlier but are not typically covered by commercial insurance or Medicare. In addition, physicians in MDVIP’s national network have time to coach you and create programs designed to help keep little problems from becoming bigger ones. 

The results are impressive. In 10 published, peer-reviewed studies, MDVIP demonstrated that its model helps identify more people at risk for conditions like heart disease. The study also stated that patients and their MDVIP-affiliated physicians do a better job managing those conditions once they’re identified than patients of traditional primary care providers. 

In a study published in 2021, at-risk Medicare patients enrolled in MDVIP saw a 12% decrease in heart attacks and strokes compared to patients in traditional primary care practices. For heart attacks and strokes that didn’t happen, that’s a lot of lives saved – and a whole lot of out-of-pocket expenses that never took place.



About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES