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Help save Medicare ... start smoking now ....

by Bill Osler / February 5, 2008 2:22 AM PST

This isn't news either. I remember reading years ago about the fact that over a lifetime it is cheaper to pay for healthcare for smokers than for non-smokers:

Fat people cheaper to treat, study says
Preventing obesity and smoking can save lives, but it doesn't save money, researchers reported Monday. It costs more to care for healthy people who live years longer, according to a Dutch study that counters the common perception that preventing obesity would save governments millions of dollars.

This study may be the first I've read that adds obesity to the list of diseases that cut lifetime healthcare costs.

In both cases the economics work like this: smokers (or obese people) consume more health dollars per year, but their life spans are shortened enough that they don't live into old age when healthier people start running up high health care bills.

So the solution to the Medicare crisis is now obvious. Encourage bad health habits, let people die young before they get on Medicare and avoid the crisis years from now.

Actually it turns out that from an economic perspective most preventive medical efforts cost more than they save. We consider the money well spent in most cases, but for the most part the people who push for preventive medical care as a way to save money are clueless.

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