Efficient Self-Protection and Progress in Curing-Technology
The direct medical costs associated with obesity, smoking, and other non-healthy habits are estimated to account for more than 20% of U.S. health spending. Hence, poor health choices induce significant aggregate shift in spending away from treating competing?non preventable?medical risks and from nonmedical consumption. Such a shift in spending distorts relative incentives to innovate in different sectors, through market-size effect. As consumers fail to internalize these aggregate-level externalities, private-prevention is generally inefficient. We show that private prevention is insufficient compared with social optimum, unless technological opportunities to develop cures for preventable diseases are sufficiently superior. Furthermore, under multiple preventable-risks, prevention efforts are biased in favor of the risk with higher potential for curing advances.
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