by John Hawkins | May 13, 2009 12:32 pm
If you want to reduce medical costs via socialized medicine, there are not a lot of easy ways to do so.
Preventative medicine certainly isn’t going to do the trick. In fact, preventative medicine tends to raise costs because it takes money to do the testing and because many minor issues that would have never develop into a serious problem are caught and treated. That means spending a lot of money that otherwise wouldn’t have been spent.
There’s also often talk of “increased efficiency,” but since when has the government ever made anything cheaper or more efficient? How can you bring legions of bureaucrats into the system, create onerous new regulations that always come along with government intrusions, and end up making things cheaper than they were before?
So, when costs are reduced under socialized medicine, if they are reduced at all, how do they get reduced?
By sacrificing the quality of care. You hire less doctors and nurses — and pay them less. You don’t get the state of the art drugs and equipment and most importantly, you treat less people. You can do that by creating long delays for surgery or even by just denying people care entirely.
Surprisingly, during the Senate Finance Committee hearings on health-care reform, Professor Stuart Altman of Brandeis University did something rare: he touched on this taboo subject,
Remember, our population is aging. And with the very, very elderly, the costs go down, so that percentage should be falling, and it’s not. Second, the cost of care is growing by so much, so at the same percentage, it’s worth a lot more. So let’s go back to the issue of comparative effectiveness, which we’re supporting. That’s where that can have a big impact. It’s not only there, but that’s where the waste is. That’s where people are using technologies that really either don’t work at all or keep people alive for very limited [time] and [at] very high cost.
Hospice is one option, but we do need take account of the cost — you know, I hate to say it, the cost-benefit of some of the things we do. And either we can do it directly, or we can do it by bundling the payments and let the delivery system deal with it. So it’s a combination of the delivery system dealing with it, or, and/or providing more information for people to make the right decisions, both for themselves and for the care.
Translation: We can save money by letting some of the old people die.
That’s why it’s ironic that the AARP is such a big supporter of socialized medicine because one of the things that will happen — and you will be surprised at how fast it happens — is that some older Americans will be denied treatments. Then more and more older Americans will be denied treatment and we’ll get lots of “quality of life” arguments from the Left defending it.
Of course, it’s worth noting that currently, despite the high cost of health care, there is no clamor from the American public to deny people expensive treatment to cut costs. There are also almost no politicians suggesting it and the people who support socialized medicine are being very, very quiet about this aspect of the whole project.
That’s problematic because this would obviously be a rather extreme change from the way we deal with health care as a society, it has life and death implications, and it should be fully and thoroughly discussed.
Perhaps the American people will surprise us and decide this is something that they’re okay with. If so, then it could be implemented right now, which would dramatically cut the costs of our current system, which could make socialized medicine unnecessary. On the other hand, if as expected, the American people are not okay with allowing people to die to save money under Obamacare, then we should know that, too. Let the American people have all the facts and decide if they’re willing to pay that price for socialized medicine.
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