Routine Oil Changes Extend the Life of Your Car

Strolling the linguistic battleground upon which we toil each day, one nearly trips over the clichés “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and “leave well enough alone.” “They’ll do,” you think, as you pick them up, brush them off, and march them once again into the breach.

But cliches are like stereotypes — sometimes they’re dead wrong — and these two certainly don’t apply to our cover story, which presents the case that insurers and employers should spend more money on healthy people. In other words, that they shouldn’t leave well enough alone and that “it” — in this case the healthy segment of the population — should be fixed even if it isn’t broke.

At the risk of eliciting yet one more groan, perhaps it is time to start throwing good money after good. The government is starting to come around to that idea. (“Come around to that idea.” Another cliché? That’s the problem with this tack — it’s far too easy to find yourself unconsciously committing the sin that you’re self-consciously pointing to. Sort of like the person who brags about how humble he is.)

As this issue was going to press, federal officials announced that beginning next year, Medicare will pay for an initial comprehensive physical exam for new beneficiaries. This will be just one of a number of preventive services that will be covered under changes brought about by Medicare reform.

“Medicare had it backwards, spending 99 percent of its resources treating seniors after they got sick and only 1 percent on preventing illness and promoting wellness,” says Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

Consider that a … um … word to the wise.

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