There were three excellent articles in the New York Times on Wednesday, August 22. Two were op-ed pieces by Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd respectively. The third was an article in the business section about medical care costs by Eduardo Porter.
Although each is deserving of comment, I would like to focus on Porter’s article as I believe he raises, in no uncertain terms, a very important but taboo issue facing the country that needs to be discussed.
The cost of providing medical care to seniors and poor people is strangling the country and will continue to do so at an increasing rate as the population ages and inevitably falls prey to the diseases of old age. Per the article, the federal government spends 4.8 percent of the nation’s economic production on health care today and is expected to spend 9.2 percent thereof in 25 years. This is not sustainable absent large tax increases on the middle class or rationing.
Given our lack of investment in education and infrastructure, we are not likely to grow our way out of this problem. So Porter asks the following question: “Does it make sense that older adults in their last year of life consume more than a quarter of Medicare’s expenditures?” Moreover, a substantial portion of that prodigious sum is spent during the last 90 days of life.
Ergo, “are there limits to what Medicare should spend to prolong someone’s life by a month or two” (to the detriment of taxpayers generally and other Medicare/Medicaid recipients)?
The article goes on to discuss how Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand generally addressed the underlying issue, ie how much should be spent to preserve a life for a year, although the question of quality of life was not mentioned in the article.
As any high school grad should understand, you can have guns or butter, but not both. I know where I stand, where do you?