Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Live fast, die young, stay pretty

Cost less. Just don't go to Mississippi.

One of the problems with all the candidates' health care policies is that they all tout losing weight and quitting smoking as one of the keys to our being able to afford universal health care. Besides the holier-than-thou moralizing and the infuriating paternalism embodied in this approach is something I've long suspected, just from looking at my own family:

good clean living is not the key to a cheap and painless death.

If you got stuck with the genes for cancer, it makes no real difference if you get the disease at 50 or at 80, it's still going to cost about the same amount to treat it. If you got stuck with the genes for heart disease, it makes no real difference if your first heart attack is at 40 or 70, it's still going to cost about the same amount to treat it.

And if you didn't get any of those genes, but instead got stuck with the genes for Alzheimers, why in the name of all that is cost conscious did you not take up smoking at a young age and have the grace to die of lung cancer? Because Alzheimers, besides the emotional havoc it wreaks on its victims and their loved ones, is a truly expensive and often lengthy way to shuffle off this mortal coil.

So, now we can finally get off this 'personal responsibility' kick and lay the blame for out-of-control health care costs where it belongs: at the feet of the health-care-industry vultures --- pharmaceutical companies and for-profit insurance companies being good ones to start with.


Steve Bates said...

I am glad to see this posted, but it is hardly surprising to me.

My late father, whose family members typically lived into their mid-eighties, smoked heavily, and thereby lived to "only" 75. His death was both painful and very costly. Fortunately, a combination of government insurance (Medicare and Medicaid, as well as help from the state's well-known cancer hospital, M.D. Anderson), and (amazingly little) private insurance, avoided bankrupting Dad's small estate.

My late mother died of Alzheimer's disease in her mid-sixties. That did to my father what his own later demise did not: it rendered him very nearly penniless, paying for my mother's care. Texas law being what it is, it would have been to our financial disadvantage as a family for me to help out. The week Dad qualified to receive Medicaid for Mom's institutional care, she died. Ah, irony.

This is a societal problem, a problem of government's approach to a situation faced by an astonishingly great number of our citizens. Governments that kiss the figurative asses of corporations... drug companies, some hospitals, some elder care facilities... make the problem vastly worse for too many individuals.

hipparchia said...

you're right that it's a societal problem, but getting enough members of society to wake up see how the corporations are robbing them of affordable health care is an uphill battle.