Really fun show to listen to today (albeit depressing and frusterating) about the state of health care policy. Senior researcher and co-founder of the Hastings Center, Daniel Callahan says "it's a complicated mess". He claims we are in an "endless war against death". At 78 years old, he brought a refreshing perspective.
It is not a human tragedy that people die of old age... We've made death as if it is the ultimate enemy. The ultimate good is the quality of life and not extending life.
That is certainly not the message we are barraged with every single day in our American culture, but it's something we've talked about on the show before. One of our listeners with stage 4 cancer has called in on previous shows with a similar sentiment - spending tens of thousands of dollars to extend someones life by several months might not be worth it. Or maybe for you it is? Nonetheless, it's a discussion we should be having. As Callahan asked, what is the end goal of our health care system? Most people would have a different answer for that.
Brown University professor of political science James Morone threw out some more startling statistics: 46 million people uninsured. 18,000 Americans die each year because of inadequate health insurance. We spend so much money yet we are 34th in life expectancy in wealthy nations. There is an obvious disconnect.
And there is an obvious ideological rift (Callahan says its split about 50/50) between those that want government controlled health care and those that are oriented more towards the private sector. At the end of the day - this mish mash of public/private health care is a recipe that isn't working. And so the big question - the endless debate - is figuring out what will work and how to get Congress to agree and make the first steps to reform.
It looks like we may be getting somewhere with Obama shielding the health care bill from a filibuster... and then what now? Arlen Specter, Reublican senator of Pennsylvania seems to be switching parties. More to come on that...
Further reading on Health Care Policy:
"The Lessons of Success - Revisiting the Medicare Story", New England Journal of Medicine - James Monroe (excerpt of upcoming book).
*** Be sure to catch the symposium at Yale today 3-5PM, "Health Care Reform: The State of the Debate". Winslow Auditorium at the Yale School of Public Health, 60 College Street