Mona Charen

But why stop there? The biggest killer of women is heart disease. Shouldn't cholesterol tests, EKGs and stress tests be covered by insurance at no cost to the women themselves? And surely counseling about the risks of a high-fat diet and sedentary lifestyle should be included, too, no? At no cost to the patients, of course. And then there's cancer, the second biggest threat to women's health. So mammograms and annual doctor visits should be free. And certainly counseling about the dangers of smoking, excessive drinking and poor diet should be "fully covered," as well. Come to think of it, gym memberships should definitely be covered at no cost to the women.

But what about men? Men are far less likely than women to seek medical treatment. And men are dropping every year from heart attacks, strokes, accidents and cancer. Surely if their "well-man" annuals were "free," they would be more likely to get the treatment and preventive care they need.

And what about helpless children? Surely only an ogre would want to charge children a fee to get their vaccinations, checkups and medicine. And certainly adolescents should receive counseling about sexuality, date rape, drugs and alcohol. Shall we say monthly? Perhaps weekly?

Sebelius praised the IOM report as "based on science and existing literature." By literature, she perhaps means Cinderella, in which a kindly fairy grandmother waves a magic wand and produces dresses, coaches and jewels "at no cost" to Cinderella. She surely cannot mean the medical literature.

Though the Obama administration never tires of repeating this falsehood, the science does not support the claim that increased spending on preventive care reduces overall costs. The journal Health Affairs has studied the literature and concluded, "Over the four decades since cost-effectiveness analysis was first applied to health and medicine, hundreds of studies have shown that prevention usually adds to medical costs instead of reducing them. Medications for hypertension and elevated cholesterol, diet and exercise to prevent diabetes, and screening and early treatment for cancer all add more to medical costs than they save."

An administration that preens about its "evidence-based" policymaking constantly errs about what medical research has shown. But even more flagrantly, it fails to grasp the very first lesson of economics: Nothing is free. Someone will pay. As the great P.J. O'Rourke put it many years ago, "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait till it's free."

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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