Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | February 11, 2013

Making Money off of Healthy People

Single payer. Some love the idea; others not so much. Either way, there’s a picture supposedly in favor of Single Payer that is making the rounds on Facebook with a caption that proclaims:



I hate to break it to them, but whatever you may think of Single Payer, there’s plenty of profit to be had from healthy people. Especially when you find ways to convince them that giving you their money is the only way they’re going to stay healthy.

There are legitimate ways in which healthy people can produce a revenue stream. Screening, by definition, is testing or procedures performed on healthy people. Mammography; colonoscopy; pap smears; well child exams; all profit-generating endeavors in and of themselves. Despite the drumbeat of “they just want to find more stuff they can treat,” bona fide screening programs are hardly loss leaders.

Then there are the less savory ways to extract money from healthy folks: chiropractic, naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, nutraceuticals…the list is nearly endless. And that’s not even counting things like organic food, vitamins, supplements, and weight loss products directly marketed to the gullible public.

Somewhere in between those two extremes are what can most charitably be called “unnecessary care,” marketed to folks with more money than common sense when it comes to medical care, whose mantra is an unshakable “More is always Better.” The “Executive Physical”, annual stress tests, coronary artery calcium scoring, carotid artery testing, portable bone mineral density testing; procedures ranging from useless to unvalidated to debunked, still directly marketed in retirement communities and senior centers around the country.

Clearly there is plenty of profit in healthy people.




  1. Brava!

  2. Of course healthy people are profitable. That’s why urologists want to see healthy men for PSA re-checks, and gynecologists want to see healthy women for annual pap smears and pelvic exams, and radiologists want to see healthy women for annual mammograms. It’s why laboratories love it when physicians run annual CBC/blood chem on healthy people. It’s all easy money.

  3. [Re-posted here; by Allison:]
    Hi, I’m one of your many readers, first time commenter. I was reading your older posts, the one about making money off healthy people via screening. You mentioned colonoscopies in the post. Are you suggesting that people not do them? Isn’t this a good thing to do? By the time colon cancer is symptomatic aren’t you pretty much toast? I get the arguements against PSAs, mammograms and etc., but I thought the colonoscopy was still considered to be for the good. What say you?

  4. @Allison: I never said (or meant to imply) that medical care provided to healthy people (ie preventive care) is all useless or a waste of money. Colonoscopy is a case in point. This post was addressed to the people who put up the Facebook post claiming, erroneously, that the health care system can’t make money unless people get sick.

    I’m not saying do or don’t do something (at least not in this particular post; PSA/mammography rantings elsewhere). I’m just pointing out that the statement “There is no profit in healthy people” is not correct. …duh (see above.)

  5. Dino, I’m sure you’re aware of the “Choosing Wisely” guidelines…but it may help Allison see where the lines should get drawn as far as “making money off of healthy people” vs doing tests or procedures that will help you make a clinical diagnosis or improve treatment:

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