December 14, 2008

The price of extending lives

The price of drugs and the pricelessness of extending an individual life for a short while is common fodder in our local newspapers. An anecdote and supporting photo of a dying person clutched to their loved ones is an easy find on any day of the week.

The MSM avoids serious debate on health care, irresponsibly going straight for the collective emotive jugular, which, lets be honest here, is a cheap shot at all of us.
"It’s hard to know that there is something out there that could help but they’re saying you can’t have it because of cost,” said Ms. Hardy, who now speaks for her husband of 45 years. “What price is life?"
That happens to be a couple in Britain, but that same quote is repeated with interchangeable names on and off in our papers though tout the years. It's the plaintive cry from those who have already lost a live and death health battle, but who'd very much like to have a few weeks, or a few months, or - rarely - a few years more on this mortal coil no matter the cost, so long as someone else is paying. With universal health systems that "someone" is invariably the rest of society.
"[The British government agency, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence] has decided that Britain, except in rare cases, can afford only £15,000, or about $22,750 [US dollars], to save six months of a citizen’s life."
That's not an entirely accurate statement. The decision isn't based on what the country "can afford", it's based on an assessment of costs and benefits, and criteria around maximizing the health spend to benefit everyone in need of medical care - concepts all too foreign to the bloated and obscenely discriminatory health system in the US.

But others are now considering the British model, perhaps finally appreciating that emotive public calls for this or that, and a finger in the wind, aren't sound criteria when distributing health dollars.
"As spending on drugs soared in many nations — often haphazardly — overall health often showed little improvement. So international aid agencies are advising governments to adopt British assessments and deliberations to improve their public’s health while lowering costs, and officials are listening — a trend that is likely to accelerate during the present global economic slowdown."
Health care is rationed, it always has been and always will be. Rationing is inevitable with goods or services that have unlimited demand and limited supply. At least the rationing in countries with universal health cover is reasonably fair to all. Meanwhile, the brutal force of rationing in America has a lot of very ugly and disproportionately unfair outcomes.
"The United States already spends more than twice as much per capita on health care as the average of other industrialized nations, while getting generally poorer health outcomes."
British balance benefit vs. cost of latest drugs


  1. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Death reduces the cost of health care by quite a lot - this is a fact.

    If I were the minister of health I would find ways of making death sexy. That way the demand for death would increase and would be inversely proportional to supply of health care taking into account to coefficient of PI squared which would act as a constant - on a sunny day.

    Of course if the calculations are done in the Northern Hemishere then the PI thingie should include ketchup and definately not sauce.


    Now what is the next problem that needs fixing?

  2. Almost right, but no cigar Justin.

    Death is cheap for the medical industry, it's the dying that packs an almighty punch.

    If the step between living and death could be abolished health care costs would plummet to a frighteningly anorexic vista of its current bloated self.

    Some absurd amount of the health dollar - around 80% - is spent on people during their last six months of life. The middle bit between life and death: "dying".


    That doesn't mean we're spending a fortune helping old folk have an extra day or two with the great great grand children. People of all ages die, the youngest to the oldest, that's the way it goes. Whatever the age, whatever the cause, if it's not from something instant, a massive heart attack or a fatal accident, for example, if there is some medical means by which to prolong a life, that's where the mega bucks go.

    Doctor's incomes would plummet if they were banned from practicing heroic medicine on every passing stranger, and we'd never again hear of nursing shortages, or hospital waiting lists.

    Seriously the cost of keeping people alive for a few extra months is the biggest bite of the health dollar.

    Not something you'll ever read about on the cover of a newspaper though, not when they can, instead, urge the gov't to spend, spend, spend, on final stages of life - photo opportunities like that are a dime a dozen, but MSM has always found the cheap stuff irresistible.

  3. Anonymous11:03 PM

    You're absolutely correct Caz. In that case I'm going into the bullet business as a side line.

    That should do the trick - eliminate that very expensive and brief transition period.

    We could invent all sorts of sexy games for the punters just to make sure their (very quick) end was fun, you know, something they would never forget.

    What about a reality game show:

    The contestants, could play Russian roulette. The audience could take bets on whether or not they would blow their brains out.

    Their reward being if they didn't blow their brains out they get to keep trying until they do. How cool - just like a free game on the pin ball machine.

    It would be a real shoot, er hoot.

    My mind just goes wild with stuff like this. And there could be a pistols at dawn episode (for insomniacs), nothing like a good duel in the wee hours.

    What about a Last Man Standing version.

    That would be excellent when baby boomers start to get a little wobbly. There should be a spike in supply in about 15 years time. As such we could fit heaps, all at the same time, in Telstra Stadium all armed with AK47s (they use lots of bullets, hehehe).

    We could place bets on who would be the last man standing. The lucky bastard would have the honor to do it all over again the following day. He could also get a complimentary cigar, but no doubt the anti smoking crowd will complain because it would be bad for his health. Boring!

    You know this could be the next big thing for the media - just so many possibilities.

    Imagine the kick backs we could get from Bertie Murdoch if we sold him the exclusive rights to supply?

    Or we could just give him the raw materials for nix and sell him our very expensive bullets.

    That way the taxpayer won't have to pay for the bullets.

    Sometimes I just amaze myself Caz (that's the Leo in me).

    When can I start my new job as Minister for Health Caz?

    PS. I'm way ahead of ya Caz.

    Getting rid of the used product is not a problem. Bertie's wife is setting up a chain of restaurants (Yum Stars) and will take all we can dish up.

    The greenies will really go for our recycling approach I reckon. Good politics. Wendi no doubt knows her stuff(ing).

    PS. Wendi has just made a covert order for just one bullet. I've got no idea why.

  4. Sure.



    Why not just offer a family bonus, of, say, one tenth of the money it would cost to keep their loved one alive for another six months ... to be paid, if, say, the relevant relative, err, passes, in one tenth the time they might otherwise have been expected to continue on this mortal coil if provided with medical support, as opposed to family support?