"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Crass (krăs): adj., 

Stating (or at best strongly implying) that improvements in healthcare just cost us more money, and that Medicare would be out of trouble if only people stopped living so long. A new Rand study examines the costs of various treatments for diseases of age, such as heart failure and cancer. The Boston Globe, which really should know better, reports with many mostly-out-of-context numbers that give the overall impression that (a) Medicare is in more trouble than it is; and (b) this is because people haphazardly use any and all treatments to extend their lives irregardless of quality.

I'm not saying there's nothing wrong with people living long periods on full-support, tubes coming out all over the place and taking millions of pills, with no hope of recovery, just because they (or in the case of many elders, their families) just don't want to let go. There is. There is, however, nothing wrong with making someone's last years as comfortable and dignified as possible, and keeping them going as long as they can really go.

Medicare doesn't pay for much of that. In my grandfather's last years, living with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and heart trouble and hip trouble and more, he used up his Medicare allotment in just the first few weeks of a year. Luckily, he had supplemental coverage, and family to help out, but Medicare did not bear the costs of keeping him going.

Trying to quantify how much it's worth paying to keep someone alive is as crass as it gets. Keeping Terri Schiavo plugged in was a disgrace, not because her life wasn't worth saving, but because it couldn't be, and prolonging her non-life was denigrating, as opposed to enriching her and those around her.

The great threat to Medicare's financial stability is the price gouging practiced by our pharmaceutical company overlords, and their brothers-in-extortion, the private insurance sector.

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