Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Health Care Rationing - What Is a Death Panel

Health care rationing is discussed by Professor Alan B. Cohen in a Letter-to-the-Editor in today's NY Times (March 21, 2012).  In his letter, Professor Cohen beclouds the true issue that "rationing" implies.  The term is understood to apply to the so-called "death panels," an unfortunate euphemism for limiting health care in certain situations.  Americans must come to understand the enormous percent of the medical dollar consumed during the last years of life (estimated at 33% in some studies), most often without significant life-extension, and the prodigious sum expended on those with terminal illnesses, often on procedures and pharmaceuticals that are at best of questionable value.  The health care dollar is best applied where it is clearly shown to be of significant benefit. We need "panels" to perform well-constructed "outcome studies" to properly evaluate how the shrinking health-care dollar is best applied, and to consider restricting re-imbursement to those applications.

Except for the unlikely discovery of some future inexpensive panacea, Americans must come to accept the fact that the existential advances in medical research and technology (also very expensive) - their intent being to eliminate disease and extend life - are associated with massive increases in cost.  This is the true "reality" that "life-panels" will need to address.

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