Yesterday’s NY Times magazine preview had a thought-provoking article by Peter Singer on health care rationing. Singer clearly comes at this from an extreme position (this is a guy whose fame is due to weighing hypothetical lives against each other), but he raises some excellent points. I’m not sure where I come down on rationing, and how it might work, but it’s clear that spending $50,000 on new drugs that only extend life by a few months is not a sustainable system. As congress gets ready to debate the health care bills coming out of committee, we should all start thinking about how America pays for health care, and reading Singer’s article is a good place to start. You only really need to read the first half. In the second half he goes into his usual shtick about disabled people vs. fully abled and goes off point.
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Obviously health care is already rationed – “triage” is emergency rationing and we are certainly “rationed” by insurance companies. What we need to do now (and thanks for opening the discussion) is talk about it as a community. We need to decide together what is most valuable for health care to provide and what we can let go. Too many of our health care dollars go to emergency procedures for our eldest citizens. If more people will sign the appropriate orders, expensive life-prolonging procedures will not be provided. That’s people taking responsibility to lower costs for everyone.