In our book, The Great Recession Conspiracy, we make the very clear point that the first step in controlling sky rocketing health care costs comes from understanding end of life issues. Now a study by the Harvard Medical School adds to that argument. They show that a mere 5% of all Medicare recipients die each year. Yet they account for 30% of the $446 Billion annual Medicare budget. That is $134 Billion spent annually, and 80% of that amount ($107 Billion) is spent on mechanical ventilators, resucscitation and other life sustaining care in the LAST MONTH of life. They also demonstrate that the primary result of that expenditure is to make suffering prolonged, both for the patient and the family.
Three simple steps would reduce that expenditure.
1) Encourage living wills.
2) Encourage DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders.
3) Encourage doctors to discuss the issues and the alternatives.
If you want to put a living face on the problem, consider Terry Schiavo. She went into a comma in 1990 and stayed that way until 2005. For over fifteen years, she required the most expensive care in the hospital for no apparent purpose whatsoever.
In spite of all the evidence of how to improve health care involved in dealing with end of life issues, the Wicked Witch of the North managed to turn the issues into "Death Panels" and "Life Rationing". (Can you imagine that woman in the most powerful job in the world?)
And we walk the walk. Both of us have had Living Wills and DNRs for many years. Do you?