Why Preventive Care Is So Important for Older Adults

On October 9, 2017, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in economics to Richard H. Thaler, who popularized the theory that when it comes to spending money, people are not rational. This may seem like an obvious idea: of course, we are not finely tuned economic machines, maximizing profit and minimizing risk at every turn. But you’d be surprised how generally pervasive the idea is that humans are — in the aggregate — rational consumers. Particularly in the field of economics.  

Thaler stood out because he wrote brilliantly about how our behavior is dependably irrational in certain situations. One of our propensities for irrationality he described included our aversion to risk. Even when it would suit us to take a certain course of action, we sometimes avoid doing so if the downside of that action seems especially harmful.

Health care expenditures are an example. Many of us do not find it financially responsible to invest up front in our medical well being. We’re here to tell you to listen to the guy who just won the Nobel Prize. Don’t be irrational. Invest in preventative care.

The benefits far outweigh the costs

The-benefits-far-outweigh-the-costsThe Center for Disease Control and Prevention lays out a pretty stark case for preventative care. “Americans use preventive services at about half the recommended rate,” the CDC writes. Why? Because healthcare is expensive. “Cost-sharing such as deductibles, co-insurance, or copayments . . . reduce the likelihood that preventive services will be used.”

This is a major problem, because, as the CDC notes, chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer — which combined cause 7 in 10 American deaths — “can be largely preventable through close partnership with your healthcare team.”

Luckily, Medicare exists

Luckily-Medicare-existsThere is good news for older adults on this front: Medicare exists. As FamilyDoctor.org notes, comprehensive preventative care includes a battery of screenings, vaccines, and tests. Flu vaccines, cancer screenings, cholesterol screenings, and osteoporosis screenings are just some of the routine health procedures that most every older adult should get. Medicare covers all of these things.

But even if you don’t qualify for Medicare, you should strongly consider proactive health care measures. They may seem irrational in the short term. They’re anything but.

Last updated: 11.14.2017

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.

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