The Cost of NOT Paying for Childhood Vaccines

Today’s Managing Health Care Costs Indicator is $156 million

There are few services delivered by the health care system that save more money than they cost.  Even among preventive health care services, we almost always spend more to deliver preventive services than we can save from future averted health care costs, even looking over a long time horizon.  Mammograms, for instance, costs over $35,000 per quality adjusted life year saved. 

There is one bright spot, though.   That’s childhood vaccinations.  While most health care is at best cost effective, meaning we save quality-adjusted life years for a reasonable price, vaccinations are frankly cost-saving.  Each dollar spent the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine saves $13.

A measles epidemic in Boston last month created havoc in one of our largest office buildings last month –and measles, mumps rubella (German measles) and pertussis (whooping cough) epidemics that have started amongst the unvaccinated cost millions in excess medical costs not to mention lost productivity. 

That’s why it’s especially depressing that the House GOP budget includes a $156 million cut in the childhood immunization program. This is a classic place where spending now saves later.  And cutting now will increase the cost of health care not just in the distant future, but even this coming year.

There are a lot of places to save money in health care.  Cutting funds for childhood immunizations isn’t one of them!