Monday, August 10, 2009

Health Care Reform and Consideration of a Lie

Of the many lies and almost unconscionable distortions of reality being bandied about regarding President Obama's attempt to reform health care in our country, none is more heinous than saying that to help pay for the reform, senior citizens are to get end-of-life counseling, so insurers will not have to provide as much coverage for them at the latter stages of their lives.

Even though the AARP is endorsing health care reform, this is nothing but an attempt to incite fear of "health care reform" in that huge voting bloc that is our senior citizens.

But is this lie something that should incite fear, loathing and mistrust? I heard on the news this morning that on average, during the last year of an American's life, $80,000 is spent on hospital stays and life prolonging machines. Now, I have not fact-checked that number, nor am I sure that one really could, as there are many subjective ways for bean-counters to count beans. (At what point can one decipher statistically that the end is imminent and attempts to stave it off create more pain than they save?) However, given the costs of health care in this country, that certainly seems like a logical number and within the bounds of reason. Given that about 2.4 million people die each year in the United States, suppose that just 10 percent decided, with counseling and support, to forgo any life prolonging procedures in hospitals when their end was imminent and chose to simply die at home, (sign me up). That's about 19 billion health care dollars that could be spent elsewhere.

Now obviously this is a grossly unscientific use of numbers and statistics and can in no way be used to consider the costs of health care and where/how health care dollars are spent. However, this does raise an interesting question. Which is the greater sin: Someone with counseling and support deciding to let their life end sooner than is medically possible, or someone having to choose between buying food or going to the doctor or dentist? The virulent rhetoric by those against health care reform regarding the former is noteworthy when juxtaposed against their almost pathological silence regarding the latter since they last killed an attempt at health care reform.

Christopher Dinnes
The Farm
Spicewood, Texas