America: the healthcare spendthrift
Kevin Drum ponders the issue of healthcare costs, and the reliance on life expectancy as a metric:
On a (marginally) related note, though, one thing that always bugs me about these discussions is their focus on mortality. In the great scheme of things that might be worth focusing on since a large portion of our healthcare dollars are spent in the last year or two of life. But extending life is hardly the only — or even the primary — purpose of healthcare. I tore a meniscus in my knee a few years ago and ended up getting $10,000 worth of arthroscopic surgery on it. It didn’t extend my life by a single minute, but it sure did improve my life. Ditto for things like dental care, antidepressives, athsma inhalers, cortisone shots, and all those infamous hip replacements. They cost a lot of money, but they don’t really have much of an effect on mortality at all. Still pretty nice to have around, though.
Good point, Kevin. I’ve always thought the same thing, which is one reason I’ve never had a problem with commercial advertising by drug companies. I mean, if you’ve got a product that will improve somebody’s quality of life, why shouldn’t you be able to market it? For the same reason, if we ever get everybody covered with medical insurance in this country, we all ought to take a chill pill over the issue of medical spending. Sure it’s likely to increase as a percentage of GDP for the foreseeable future. But if that spending is enhancing quality of life, why is that a bad thing?