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Some Not-So-Final Thoughts

03/05/2012

Alcoholics cannot begin to help themselves until they admit they have a problem.  In that vein, we need to repeat:  The American health care system in general and Medicare & Medicaid in particular are going to destroy this country!  There!  We said it!

We’ve all seen the statistics many times, maybe so many times that we’re numb to facts, but the 800-pound gorilla in the room is still pronounced as “d-e-a-t-h  p-a-n-e-l-s.”

Suppose I have prostate cancer, and there is a new drug that costs $90 thousand and will probably extend my life for 90 days.  Assuming the quality of my life is something other than miserable, why shouldn’t I take the drug and enjoy my family another 90 days . . . since it doesn’t really cost me anything?

And, since it doesn’t cost my family anything to keep me around, why shouldn’t they let Medicare spend the $90 thousand of taxpayer money for another 90 days with the old man?

Now, if you change the cost-sharing formula to, say, 50%, my family might or might not spend $45 thousand for another 90 days with the old man.  But, that is an option poor people would not have, and a “death panel” doesn’t want to tell the poor family that another 90 days with their old man is not worth $90 thousand to the taxpayers.

Maybe, the decision should be made by China, since we borrow 40% of every dollar spent.  If you were China, would you loan the U.S. $36 thousand to keep me alive for 90 days?  That’s not exactly an infrastructure investment.

Or, maybe the decision should be made by my grandson, since he is the one who will have to repay the Chinese?

To the cold, unblinking eyes of economists and accountants, the facts are harsh and demand an answer, which unfortunately can only come from our political class, useless as they are.  Democrats have taken an already complicated health care system and made it even more so.  By default, Republicans defend the indefensible current system, when they offer only philosophical bromides which are dead-on-arrival, such as the Ryan Plan.

However, during my recent tour through the world of intensive care, I witnessed an army of decent, hard-working people dedicated to saving lives and improving the quality of those lives.  I appreciate and salute those folks and the work they do.  It is a cruel irony that they seem so removed from the process of making decisions about the future of health care.  I would much prefer that they make the decision about my final days, instead of my family or, even worse, elected politicians.

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