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March 20, 2006

George Bush: Objectively Pro-Cancer

More awesome policy-making from the Bush administration:

The federal government has a national breast and cervical cancer early detection program, run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It provides screening and other important services to low-income women who do not have health insurance, or are underinsured.

There is agreement across the board that the program is a success. It saves lives and it saves money. Its biggest problem is that it doesn't reach enough women. At the moment there is only enough funding to screen one in five eligible women.

A sensible policy position for the Bush administration would be to expand funding for the program so that it reached everyone who was eligible. It terms of overall federal spending, the result would be a net decrease. Preventing cancer, or treating it early, is a lot less expensive than treating advanced cancer.

So what did this president do? He proposed a cut in the program of $1.4 million (a minuscule amount when you're talking about the national budget), which would mean that 4,000 fewer women would have access to early detection.

This makes no sense. In human terms, it is cruel. From a budget standpoint, it's self-defeating.

Advanced cancers are expensive to treat. Fighting them costs exponentially more than removing nascent tumors. This cut will prove a money-loser after it misses its first lump. And we're replicating the mistake across the board:

What's really amazing," said Mr. Smith, "is that the president cut every cancer program. He cut the colorectal cancer program. He cut research at the National Cancer Institute. He cut literally every one of our cancer-specific programs. It's incomprehensible."

It really is. Compassionate conservatism in action. Not only cruel, but stupid, too.

Update: Reader EM e-mails:

Ezra--as someone who does a fair amount of policy-related research, I really like your work. In your post about cutting funding for the NBCCEDP, though, you're off on one point--that the unfortunate cutting of funds will lead to a net increase in costs. Although you're absolutely right that advanced cancer is expensive, especially compared to the costs of screening or treatment for early lesions, the net costs of screening for cancers are almost always higher than the net costs of doing nothing, because cancers are relatively rare. This is especially true for cervical cancer, where the majority of the abnormalities detected are unlikely to ever become a cancer.

So maybe just cruel?

March 20, 2006 | Permalink

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Tracked on Mar 20, 2006 4:42:47 PM

Comments

considering how much money we spend each day, destroying lives in iraq, i think it would be well worth the amount of money to save the lives of women in this country who suffer with any life threatening ailment that could be screened for or diagnosed....even if it is just one life.
i feel sorry for anyone so taken in with the statistics of wonkery, that the life of one human being just becomes a number....when did we stop being human?

Posted by: jacqueline | Mar 20, 2006 5:03:28 PM

Query whether this isn't one of those fake cuts that an administration can put in a budget knowing that it will be reversed, so that the administration can blame Congress (or state legislature) for not cutting spending without taking the hit of actually having spending on a popular program cut.

Posted by: alkali | Mar 20, 2006 5:23:06 PM

Well, depending on how small the gap between money saved and spent is, it could still be pretty stupid.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Mar 21, 2006 1:22:13 AM

If the banter at Hilzoy's Obsidian Wings is on the money, the whole thing is expense neutral ( talking currency only ).

Posted by: opit | Mar 21, 2006 4:28:05 PM

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