Affordable Health Reform

It was actually spoken out loud on NewsHour Friday night: we could have a workable, affordable healthcare system if we would address the excessive costs that go into the last six months of life, particularly the last few days. The remark was immediately followed by the standard caveat: of course, no one is going to suggest doing this.

Good grief, why not? Everybody knows it, a few others have even said it out loud. Sure, it’s political suicide, but if someone were ever brave enough to fall on that particular sword there would be a lot of people around to pull out the sword, cleanse the wound and stand him or her back upright.

It could be done. If individual choice were encouraged and enabled. If physicians had to be honest about the quality of life (if any, usually for a few days or weeks) being bought with aggressive treatment at life’s end. If futile treatment were avoided. If protections were put in place for physicians and hospitals complying with the above, since fear of lawsuit is behind most of the mess. If all of us began to look at — and make clear — what extreme measures we would or would not want.

Big ifs. But the reward would be a workable, affordable system.

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