Sunday, December 4, 2011

Heath Reform: Costs, Demands, and Coffee In Old Saybrook

As long as we have an aging population; sick patients who want to live a little longer; evolving technologies, and doctors devoted to those technologies, and consumers demanding them, costs will rise.

“Costs and Demands,” Section in The Health Reform Maze, Greenbranch Publishing, 2011

December 4, 2011 – Every Sunday, I have coffee with my friends at the River Mart Convenience Store on Main Street, In Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Across the street from River Mart are the Fire Station, the Town Hall, and the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center. Not far down Main Street is Walt’s, the neighborhood food store, where everybody knows somebody worth knowing in this seaside town of 10,000.

This morning six of us gathered to gossip over coffee. I shan't disclose our ages. Just let me say, we were long in the tooth, rich in life’s experiences, and living and feeling well thanks to modern medicine.

• One was an ex-CEO, who has had both knees replaced and who has undergone three lithotripsies for kidney stones.

• Two was a retired machinist about to have the first of two cataract procedures.

• Three was the old sea dog who has had two rotator cuff repairs.

• Four was the sea dog’s son, who has a thyroid cancer cured and a rotator cuff fixed.

• Five was a former printing company employee, who has recently had a cardiac pacemaker and a defibrillator implanted.

• Six was a retired physician now bearing two stents after a myocardial infarction.

What did these six share in common? They believed in the wonders of modern medical technologies. They had all benefited from these technologies. Specialists,armed with these technologies, treated them all. Medicare and health insurances shielded them from true costs of care. They had little sense whatbottom-line costs were for government, nor did they care. They took it, as a given,they would have quick access to similar technologies and to specialists who provide them at somebody else’s dime, should they need either to survive and thrive until their dotage or death.

And so it went, and so it will be.

As I recite this tale of health costs, demands for care, and coffee talk, consider what government is up against as it tries to rein in costs by denying procedures.

• Does government ration care for those who have come to expect it?

• Do government bureaucrats and experts, not doctors or patients, know best?

• Does government lower specialists’ pay or money expended on each procedure?

• How does government keep news of medical technology triumphs from spreading, as citizens talk over coffee about their own experiences and those of friends, relatives, and neighbors?

• How do you convince the public that one man’s new-found cure and feeling of wellness is another man’s waste?

A Take-A-Way Walk-A-Way

I walked away from this morning’s coffee hour thinking: 1) most of us don’t care deeply or knowledgeably about health care cost issues, as long as we get the best care for ourselves; 2) Coffee talk is a great stimulus for spreading the health care technologies.

Tweet: Coffee and talk of positive health care outcomes are great stimuli for more health care demands, costs be damned as long as you get yours.

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