Friday, May 1, 2009

The Almighty Dollar -- or Why we SHOULD spend more on Healthcare

From InvestorBizDaily, "The Attack on Doctor's Hippocratic Oath":

Ezekiel Emanuel sees the Hippocratic Oath as one factor driving "overuse" of medical care. He is a policy adviser in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and a brother of Rahm Emanuel, the president's chief of staff.

Dr. Emanuel argues that "peer recognition goes to the most thorough and aggressive physicians." He has lamented that doctors regard the "Hippocratic Oath's admonition to 'use my power to help the patient to the best of my ability and judgment' as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others."

Of course, that is what patients hope their doctor will do.

But President Barack Obama is pledging to rein in the nation's health care spending. The framework for influencing your doctor's decisions was included in the stimulus package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Now, I, being a fallible human being like most other Americans, do not understand completely Obama's health care plan. This is very suspicious, especially since, while I may not like the man's policies, I would generally accredit him with being a decent communicator. But, there is one particularly disturbing aspect of Obama's plans, the algorithms.

Although not quite as sinister as the SkyNet from Terminator, it too may terminate you. If your care is found to be too expensive, your cancer too aweful, you not worth it, it will let you die, not even granting you the dignity of a bullet to the head, another blood offering at the altar of balanced budgets in a manner of cruel neglect.

This is being done in the name of economic progress. Although Obama does not even have the certainty that this will work, he has bet his presidency, his country, and the lives and dignity of many vulnerable people on the idea that through reducing health care expenditures, we can save our "economy." But what is an economy anyways? Why is it so sancrosanct? Why are we willing to sacrifice ourselves and our loved ones for the sake of dollars? And why do we even trust this fellows plan?

In fact, why do we even have an economy? Why do we even have wealth? If we're not even going to take care of our own people, why are we even trying? Why don't we just go home?

Look, I know of fewer better spendings of our wealth on this earth as human beings, our petty dollars, then saving peoples lives and keeping them well. Why are we calling medical research and cutting-edged treatments "waste?" Because they don't make us more money? And is that even true...

The really sad thing is how many people seemed to have jumped aboard this bandwagon. I, as an American, have never felt this discouraged at my own people. That my own fellow citizens cannot seem to see what they are creating through their desire for, I don't even know what, is one of the most striking blows I have ever received when looking back at my own country.

And further, even from the practical side, what happens if we face a new threat? What happens if there's a big virus outbreak, like the Spanish flu, and this entire society we have sacrificed so much for crumbles before us, disgracing us and spitting on our name for our own lack of foresight.

For the sake of the fourth most basic human economic need (after clothes, shelter, and food), 20% (about where it lies) is not unreasonable. But I fear many people do not even realize what they've done. I don't think they even see that it could be their loved one, or themselves. I support making coverage more universal, but this is not the right way to do it. We just need to accept that a little more money to cover the remainder of our population is both right and justified, and seek other, more worthy, places to scratch out a balanced budget.

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