More on lowering health care costs:
Listen to the first segment of this Radiolab episode. They’re talking about what I was addressing in my last blog post, the hard decisions that have to be made about what we’re willing to pay for healthcare. They posit a number of real and likely scenarios–what if there was a cure for diabetes that cost roughly a $100,000 but cured it forever–given the millions of people with diabetes it would bankrupt the nation! And yet, the lifetime cost of only managing diabetes, not curing it, may be far more than $100,000. So how do we decide how to pay for this treatment? Who gets it? Who doesn’t? What about the relative worth of a cancer treatment drug that costs a fortune yet provides only minimal benefits? Are we obligated to help pay for any and all treatments available, no matter the cost? We couldn’t afford to even if we wanted to, so where do we draw the line?
These are answerable questions. If you surveyed a thousand people about any of these healthcare cost questions you would get a thousand different answers, but if you plotted the answers on a graph they would likely cluster around a certain range–not a very scientific or deliberate process, granted, but my point is we can easily figure out how much healthcare is worth to us, and who should receive the limited dollars available. Ask a life insurance company how much a year of extra life is worth, and you’ll get a much more precise, statistical answer. These are not unanswerable questions, they can and will be answered. We have to acknowledge that hard choices must be made.
But I’ll say again–managing the exploding cost of healthcare must not be a burden placed only on the public, we need to first rein in the greed running wild in the healthcare industry. Profit motivations and healthcare do not mix well–at best profit motivation can drive innovation, but when it drives every sector of the industry it leads to corruption and exploitation. Free markets are not the solution, and the past 50 years proves the point.