In a recent issue of Newsweek, Robert J. Samuelson, citing a variety of experts and studies, concludes that our health care spending is out of control because of our behavior. We “receive more medical services than other people do, and pay more for them.” He goes on to note that we get more CT scans, knee and hip replacements than other wealthy countries. Our system encourages medical providers to use every tool, run every test, and prescribe every possible medication to treat us when we are sick or injured to forestall the inevitable.
It is our fault. We expect to be cured and damn the cost.
A friend in his late seventies is on THE LIST. He is waiting for a kidney. Since he is in his seventies, you and I will be paying for this surgery through Medicare should he ever get to the front of the line. Is it logical to perform a kidney transplant on an unhealthy seventy-plus year old? Would this procedure be performed in Canada? In France? In Michael Moore’s beloved Cuba?
Does the ability to access expensive procedures at almost any age make our current system better? Not until you are the patient on the gurney. It is easy to point to incredible waste and countless questionable decisions. But, are you willing to take one for the team?
Metaphorically, would you be checking that list daily if our ailing gentleman was your father? What if the patient was YOU? Where is the line? These aren’t simply theoretical questions. There is an international black market in transplant-able kidneys. If you are one of millions of Americans breathlessly anticipating a change in our health care delivery system, you should begin to think about issues of access. And the time to think about access and how it will change is now.
The payment and delivery of health care in the United States must change. There is too much pressure, political and financial, for Congress to ignore. This is good. Our current system is a hodgepodge of stop-gap measures masquerading as a solution. Unfortunately, some of the most vocal proponents of change have some of the most unrealistic answers to this questions. We can not have unfettered access to any and all care without restriction or cost.
So again, are you willing to take one for the team?