When Benjamin Franklin first declared, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," it was within the context of fighting house fires. But the adage has been applied to everything from cleaning house to health care for decades.

"As we all know, the United States health care system is by far the most expensive in the world," notes Matt Jacobson, the chief executive officer and founder of SignatureMD. "The reason our expenses are so high is because we only allocate 30 percent of our health care dollars to prevention, yet more than 70 percent of the diseases that plague this country are preventable. We have a system that's based on paying for procedure and not for prevention. If we were to allocate 25 percent more of our dollars to prevention, we would be able to eliminate many of these chronic diseases – diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and even certain forms of cancer – via diet, smoking cessation and exercise. It would eliminate more than 25 percent of health care expenditures."

However, now that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has mandated that insurance companies cover preventive care procedures, some health care experts wonder whether an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure in today's economy. As is par for the course in health care, much of the debate centers on how to define prevention – and how to delineate prevention from treatment, which isn't always easy.

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