Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Must Read on Health Care

I consider this article from the Economist's Democracy in America blog on our health care system required reading among my friends.

It is easy to get caught up in the politics and horse-trading of the current health care debate. Sometimes I force myself to take a step back and look at the big picture. The inclusion of the public option, covering the uninsured, federal funding of abortions... these are all important topics. But the most important issue in reforming our health care system is slowing the growth of health care expenditures. We spend too much in this country on health care (and the military). The public option and requiring or providing health insurance to all may be useful tools in reducing costs, but it is going to be necessary for our country to hold an honest and painful debate on end-of-life-care and our priorities. The current system is unsustainable.

"For one thing, it means that Medicare spent $50 billion last year to care for patients in the last two months of their lives. As "60 Minutes" pointed out on Sunday, "that's more than the budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Education." It means we give liver transplants to the terminally ill, defibrillators to those with untreatable cancer. It means we use lots of money and resources, as if we have an endless supply of both, in order to briefly delay the reaper, or avoid looking him in the eye."

"...We condemn 'rationing' as if we don't already do it."

"For example, instead of buying some of those defibrillators and paying for some of those transplants, we could computerise America's medical records. At this time, someone holding up a placard might accuse me of "killing grandma". In reality, though, my decision would save many more grandmas—a study found that between 2002 and 2004 nearly a quarter of Medicaid beneficiaries died due to safety incidents, many of which were likely preventable with better record keeping. But improving record keeping doesn't quite have the emotional appeal of caring for the elderly. So we give grandma her procedure, whatever it may be, while ignoring the fact that more money spent in one place means less money spent in another. Ignoring that every excessive procedure comes with a cost, in terms of the nation's overall health."

Bonus reading: Ebert's funny review of Twilight: New Moon

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