The High Cost of Dying

With all of the talk about bending the cost curve in health care Sixty Minutes aired a provocative segment tonight that is sure to ignite major and heated discussion. What did you think? What do we do to truly bend that curve, and is it even realistic to think cost containment can be achieved within our current political system?

http://cnettv.cnet.com/av/video/cbsnews/atlantis2/player-dest.swf
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5 Responses to The High Cost of Dying

  1. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    So now the party of Abortion will now weigh the cost of maintaining life. In a moral society such an answer is that life is precious and it is to be preserved as long as it can sustain ‘itself’.

    Technology can prolong life beyond where it would normally terminate. So as the moral dilemma that defines when life begins will have to define when life ends.

    Does the end of life come down to a cost benefit equation?

    I watched the film through its entirety (Including the Viagra commercial). It made me aware of the absolute danger of what a government Health Care system could be like. Of course any patient in this situation is in Medicare. I do not know if there are limits within the Medicare system.

    My solution in a free market atmosphere is the resolution is between the patient or the patient’s family and the doctor in charge.

    If the patient’s life is being extended by technology and cannot sustained itself then the insurance company (or Medicare) can terminate coverage and the patient can assume the cost of further care privately. The Insurance companies can then pick up the cost of Hospice care. I, myself have been through this with my wife who died from complications of liver cancer. After three weeks the doctor told me, in the hallway, there was nothing they can do and she would die. I was immediately hooked up with a Hospice who saw us through this horrible dilemma. She died in our bed two weeks later. The doctors were right, though, there was nothing they could do to save her.

    She was on Medicare and, as far as I know, no bureaucrat was involved.

    The solution is simple; leave to the doctor and patient.

    Jules

    Other situations will

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  2. Fred Mertz says:

    Mr. Mayor:

    I can add no more to Jules’ posting: I would have said 99% the same thing.

    Now, if I can just nudge him a little bit to see that provision of ALL federal health services should be between doctor and patient, with costs balanced by taking into account expected outcomes and not what an insurance company CFO told Wall Street what (s)he would achieve that quarter (and I have no problem if you personally can afford to do more, to do it), he and I could shake hands.

    I could note that the same technologies that prolong end of life are also being used to define the beginning of life, and thus a similar moral question as to when life really begins should guarantee that the larger discussion will survive us all.

    And Jules, for all the ribbing I give you: thank you for sharing your story.

    I’ve been touched twice in two days, now.

    -FM

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  3. Fred Mertz says:

    Jules:

    I will tell you plainly: I have over the past week or so been waivering on my support of the current health care bill, not because it was too much, but because it wasn’t enough. I thought maybe if we cannot get everything including a strong public option this time around, maybe the best choice was to get nothing and let the status quo force the decision. I was willing to let the Republicans take this bill down and thus have the looming disaster be their fault, at which time we could fix the system properly.

    I’m now going to redouble my own efforts, make more donations and more phone calls to try to ensure that every American has available to them the level of care and compassion she received. Waiting one more day is too long. We as a culture should demand no less.

    -FM

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  4. Jules Gordon says:

    Okay,

    Who was the person who kidnapped Fred and wrote the entry. I was actually touched by his sentiments.

    Fred entry 2.

    I think we agree it’s a mess. 200 people having very little knowledge of the subject are trying to maximize their own political advantages along with lobbyist pressure are trying to design a very complex systems. Results are 2000 pages that are incomprehensible. Will it work?

    I say it will be a mess, it will add to our debt, it will add tax, it will not contain cost. (All this my opinion based on all other Government system less complex)

    Jules

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  5. Fred Mertz says:

    Jules:

    On your entry 2 response:

    We do diverge here. You’ve given an eloquent and heartfelt illustration of precisely why Medicare, as complicated as it is, works.

    Can we attempt to do better? Yes. Always. Can we make it cost less? Yes. Can we make it cover more people, so that exactly the experience you and your wife got through Medicare can be had by the 46 million other Americans who are not currently covered? I believe it is immoral for us not to.

    We do agree that lobbyists and entrenched interests are having their way with both the Senate and House versions, but that’s been the Congressional way of things for a long, long, time. If you want to solve that, you have to get money out of politics, agree that corporations and interest groups should not have the same free speech rights as individuals, and support even stronger McCain-Feingold. I’m not holding my breath that either Republicans or Democrats would be up for that.

    Others have pointed out that this bill could be very short. I can paraphrase in two bullet points:

    1) Extend Medicare to all Americans
    2) Let Medicare negotiate for services

    We know as engineers that there is no such thing as a perfect machine: there is always room for improvement in any system built by man.

    What we used to be as a culture is one that constantly sought that improvement: now, I’m not so sure. In the long term, though, I think that history is on my side. This fight will eventually be won, because it is right.
    Plus the fact that if we want to continue to offer Medicare to even the current section of the population that enjoys it, we have no choice, because the current public/private partnership will bankrupt us.

    -FM

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