The Times reported Oct. 30 that Democratic candidate Jay Inslee had to backtrack on his claim that preventive care could save state government hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It turned out that the state already is doing several of the things Inslee proposed (promoting generic drugs, membership in Group Health) and that the...

The Times reported Oct. 30 that Democratic candidate Jay Inslee had to backtrack on his claim that preventive care could save state government hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It turned out that the state already is doing several of the things Inslee proposed (promoting generic drugs, membership in Group Health) and that the Democrats’ gubernatorial candidate had been using an outdated estimate of how much King County had saved in its preventive programs.

Exaggeration is common in politics. So is belief, and in this case belief may be more important. Most Americans believe preventive medicine cuts costs, and they are mostly wrong.

Before the last presidential election, in 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine ran an article summing up all the studies of preventive medicine. The article, “Does Preventive Care Save Money? Health Economics and the Presidential Candidates,” quoted candidates of both parties spouting this belief: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Mike Huckabee. We’re hearing it again from Obama this year.