Obamacare & the Aging Population UPDATES

Since the Democrats last night offered anecdote-after-anecdote in order to justify the passage of Obamacare, I guess anecdotes are now completely fair entries into the debate. Let me offer two of them.

A friend of mine listened to the healthcare vote while driving home from a hospital, where he’d spent the day with his 80 year-old father.

His father is a robust man, fully in his wits, who only retired “for good” about six months ago. He had retired from his job as a line man and became bored after a few years of retirement (“how many times can I clean out the gutters and fix the boat engine?”) so he had become a part-time flag man -the guy who flags traffic as roads are repaired- for about a decade.

Over the winter my friend’s father went for a routine physical, during which (and through subsequent testing) it was discovered he had lymphoma, and lung cancer.

The two cancers were not connected -they were two separate events in his body- and so the lymphoma was addressed first. Mr. K. spent the winter going through chemo. This week, the lung cancer and one lobe of his lung was removed, and the doctors feel pretty confident that the pathology report will show additional tissue to be clean.

Mr K., as you might expect, is feeling pretty lousy right now, but he has hope. “In about six to eight weeks, you can do everything you ever did,” the doctors told him. Good news for a man who likes to stay busy.

As my friend was driving home last night, he couldn’t help but think back to the “healthcare townhall” President Obama held, where a woman talked about her 105 year old mother, who was in excellent health thanks to a pacemaker inserted when she was 100 years old by doctors who saw her “joy for life” and ignored her age. The woman wondered if Obamacare was going to be interested in giving her mother the sort of medical attention she currently enjoys, or will she simply be considered “too old,” when the bureaucrats who will now decide how public monies for health care are spent, consider her case.

Obama’s answer was unsurprising. He said many words -he always does- but not the words “your mom will get the exact same level of care she now enjoys.”

In fact, he ended his remarks with, “…maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.”

Remembering this, my friend wondered: under Obamacare, would his father, at age 80, have been denied chemo and surgery, and simply offered palliative care as he was sent home to die, when he is a man who has the spirit and drive to enjoy many more years, with proper medical care?

A man who worked hard all his life, paid his taxes, played by the rules and served his nation in the military should be able to hope for more, in his old age, than “take the painkiller,” shouldn’t he?

We spent last night at a birthday party, with the debate on in the background, and one SIL told me of a friend whose mother came to the US, from Europe, because she could not get vascular surgery in her country. Over 70, it turns out, was “too old” for such a waste of public money.

“But for goodness sake,” said my SIL, “Mom and Dad both had surgeries in their 70′s; that’s when a lot of people have vascular surgeries, stents, all kinds of procedures…”

Well…maybe not so many, any more.

UPDATE:
Interesting Perspective from a UK physician who got out:

“In a private fee-for-service medical system, a dead patient is a revenue loss. In the National Health Service (UK), a dead patient was a cost savings.” -Harry Bailey MD 1930-2003, Sheffield (England) University Medical School 1950-1956; Harvard Medical School 1958-1981, US Navy Medical Corps 1982-1991.

The above quote is from my late father. He had a very unique perspective on the practice of medicine, especially as it relates to the various delivery systems. He was born and brought up in England and entered medical school there in 1950,

Read the whole thing

More:
Another anecdote from Bookworm
Patrick is feeling frustrated
Neo-neocon has more thoughts
Megan McArdle looks at predictions
Ed Morrissey says Next up are the Court Challenges. But Ed is keeping hope alive.
How the Stupak Votes Fell

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    War vets receiving medical care from the VA most certainly would object to the suggestion that they are the beneficiaries of socialized medicine because they are not.

    They are the beneficiaries of the thanks of a grateful nation, which has pledged to take care of them on account of the sacrifices they made on the battlefield. There isn’t anything even remotely socialist about it. They paid for their care up front — with their blood and sweat and tears.

  • NanB

    If congress were forced to participate in Obama care we would have a brand new set of laws in place OR we would have many new congressmen in a short span of time.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Odd that no one seems to want the system changed.

    Are you purposely deceitful, or only obtuse?

    No one has said that they don’t want the current system changed.

    [That's the handy straw man, though, right? There are many ways the system could be changed for the better - a combination of cross-state purchasing power, the gov't giving uninsured a chance to buy into the fed-employees insurance pools, tort reform and some other ideas could well have fomented something very good without being a 2,300 page monstrosity that includes bribes, payoffs, college loan workings (!) and more than we will ever actually know. I still am amazed that so many people are so willing to support an health reform plan that exempts the congress and president from participation. -admin]

  • Daniel H. Conway

    In Pennsylvania, all kids get covered as a rule. Think of pediatrics in states like this as “obamacare for kids” and it works very well. No death panels. And the cruelties of the Invisible Hand of the Market, which function on the routine more harshly in health care than any death panel, are avoided in this demographic.

    And yet we manage to celebrate freedom just like everyone else.

    These histrionics are unbecoming such usually thoughtful discourse.

    The problem comes when folks turn 18. And then the chronically ill children, now young adults develop disability as a consequence of the loss of coverage and there underlying medical conditions.

    It seems that, by the logic of this blog, Australians and Western Europe are “unfree” or however all the rhetoric is claimed. I think that would shock those countries.

    The lack of sobriety about the discourse is very interesting.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Purposely deceitful or obtuse? Hmmm, “Six of one, half-dozen of the other”, as my own WWII vet dad used to say.

    I agree, Bender, that care for veterans isn’t socialized medicine, but something they’ve well and truly earned.

    Yes, Bender, do ask him! Though, I suggest you might not want to be standing too close to him, when you do. . . :)

  • Rand Careaga

    Bender: They paid for their care up front — with their blood and sweat and tears.

    So my old man would undoubtedly say—has said, indeed. Nevertheless, he is receiving his care from doctors and nurses on the federal payroll, and is well-satisfied with the level of care received. But since you folks are so opposed to government participation in medicine, wouldn’t you agree that he’d be better off in the hands of, say, Blue Cross/Blue Shield?

    [And yet, when my veteran brother was in the care of the VA (and I do not wish to slander the whole organization, but the story is true, nevertheless) and his lung collapsed from bronchitis, they tried to dissuade me and my sister from requesting that his lung be re-inflated. His life seemed to lack quality. My sister said, "his life may not be the life you'd like, but it's the life he has; he enjoys music and tv, he talks to the nurses, he's made friends in the best way he can, and he has visitors. It's his life. If re-inflating his lung is all it takes to keep him going, then reinflate his lung." They were not happy, but they did it, and he lived for another year and a half before a massive stroke killed him. I do not say this to impugn the VA, which has great people working there. But I mention it as an example of a mindset that starts to see bottom lines and "quality" issues as taking precedence of the lives people have. If you wonder why I am so passionate about it, it's because I have had a deal of skin in this game. -admin]

  • Left Coast Conservative

    I was at a town hall meeting, standing on the sidewalk this summer – listening to people on the radical reform side distort every comment made by those advocating a more reasoned path. The conversations ranged from reasonable with both parties open to compromise all the way to “see – she’s wearing nice jeans – she has health care and she doesn’t want me to have any.” There was no room for conversation.
    Inside the building was no better – the representative admitted to not reading the bill and distorted the contents of what he had not read.
    It seems that the intellectual dishonesty of the radical reformists requires them to grasp at the smallest of perceived openings and proceed without real thought to solutions. If that isn’t so, then why the statements about no one here wanting reform?

  • JAL

    Oh goodie, stories!

    My mom had a stent put in when she was 83. That was 9 years ago (and 4 months after my 90 year old dad died.) She also had bilateral cateract surgery that spring.

    Would Obama have offered her a pill?

    Since then she has taken a Bahamas cruise, traveled hundreds of miles up the east coast several times including doing the Smithsonian. She was at her youngest granddaughter’s wedding last year, flown across the country to spend 4 months with another daughter, been to another granddaughter’s wedding, flown back, and just recently finished touring Monticello and Mount Vernon.

    She uses a rolling walker and is 93 years old.

    Right. Just give her a pill and let her veg in the sun. Find an ice floe.

    Will Obamacare respect her humanity, her life, her loves?

    Yeah. Like it respected the voice of the American people who yelled “NO!”

  • Stefanie

    Cathyf and Sue from Buffalo — my future daughter-in-law is completing her 2nd year of pre-med. More than ever, she feels she is needed. She cast her first-ever Presidential vote for President Obama. Having come to America from the Philippines, she knows the greatness of America, but wants to contribute to the world (as any good Catholic is called to do). God made her amazingly brilliant. She hopes one day that God will allow her to assist him as a cancer researcher or a doctor. Time will tell.
    In the meantime, Elizabeth, don’t neglect your Vespers tonight. The readings and prayers are as if written today and speak to all of us. “I trust in the Lord, so why do you say to me:
    “Fly up to the mountain like a sparrow”?
    “For the wicked have drawn their bows,
    fitted the arrow to the string,
    to shoot in darkness at the upright of heart.
    When the foundations are being overthrown,
    what are the just to do?”
    The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
    His eyes look down on the poor,
    he examines the children of men.
    The Lord scrutinises the just and the unjust,
    and his heart hates those who do evil.
    He rains down coals upon the wicked,
    fire and brimstone and a scorching wind:
    this is what he gives them to drink.
    For the Lord is just and loves just deeds,
    and the upright shall see his face.”
    And this, too:
    “Lord, who will live in your tent?
    Who will dwell on your holy mountain?
    Whoever comes there without stain,
    acts rightly, speaks truth in his heart.
    Whoever does not speak deceitfully,
    or do harm to his neighbour, or slander him.
    Whoever despises the evil-doer,
    but reveres those who fear the Lord.
    Whoever swears and keeps his word, come what may
    – lends his money without usury –
    takes no bribe to condemn the innocent.
    Whoever lives like this
    will stand firm for ever.
    Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
    as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
    world without end.
    Amen.”
    Peace!

  • JAL

    I was in London last week… From the March 14 Times: There are 600,000 people on the waiting list for medial procedures. If you are on more than 18 weeks you can ask to go for private.

    My friend is an NHS nurse. She told us Britain has what is popularly called the “post code lottery.” Certain treatments are NOT available to people based on their postal address.

    Google it.

  • Sue from Buffalo

    Stefanie, does your future daughter in law regret her vote for Obama yet? Does she realize now what he’s really about?

    I’m glad she’s going to continue with her medical studies. We’re going to need more devout Catholic doctors.

  • Stefanie

    Sue,
    She and two of my voting-age children have no regrets yet…although I’ve started to notice their comments are more tempered than they were in November, 2008.
    In some ways, it reminds me of when I voted for Jerry Brown in my youth. Remember when the young thought it was so cool that he refused to move into the brand-new governor’s mansion? (sigh)

  • cathyf

    The VA is actually known for having wasteful and inefficient distribution of resources. So there are VA hospitals that are 30% full, with staff sitting around like the Maytag repairman, while other VA facilities are chronically overcrowded and constantly triaging their patients. The point is that the political process makes it impossible to close the underused facilities and transfer the money spent there to the places that are desperate for it.

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  • Rand Careaga

    Again, all I can offer up is the anecdotal evidence of an aged parent who has been treated by his own account very, very well by the VA. Results may vary. I may be that Der Alte’s Sacramento-area VA hospital is somehow extraordinarily better than other VA facilities around the country. Go figure.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    the cruelties of the Invisible Hand of the Market

    It was the “cruelties of the Invisible Hand of the Market” that built up the American economy to the strongest in the world.
    It was the “cruelties of the Invisible Hand of the Market” that provides so much food for the world that the poor people are overweight.
    It was the “cruelties of the Invisible Hand of the Market” that provides the greatest level of housing and homeownership in human history.
    It was the “cruelties of the Invisible Hand of the Market” that, until our “hope” became president, we had almost full employment in this country and, before then, a greater percentage of people working in human history.
    It was the “cruelties of the Invisible Hand of the Market” that led to people having the highest standard of living ever, leading life expectancy to skyrocket from most people dying before age 50 to where it is now nearly age 80.
    And it was the “cruelties of the Invisible Hand of the Market” that largely created the current high level of quality health care that is the envy of the world.

    When obstacles are removed from free people and their ability to improve their lives themselve and the lives of those around them — which is the true end of government, the security of individual liberties — then society prospers in ways that could never have been imagined in the past.

    But when government imposes obstacles to freedom, when government inserts itself into the doctor’s office, and tells you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, and treats fundamental liberties, such as the pursuit of medical happiness, as if they were government hand-outs by divine rulers, then, the people being so shackled, society fails and regresses.

    The answer to the problems of the heathcare system, like the answer to all the other problems of man, is Freedom.

    Government is not the solution. Government is the problem.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Cathyf, the VA can, indeed, be extremely wasteful, and disorganized. Some V.A. hospitals seem to be run alright—and some don’t. And there’s the perennial problem of trying to get more built, which is a bureaucratic nightmare.

    It’s only going to get worse when the government is expected to run all the hospitals, not just the V.A. ones. “Go figure!” indeed!

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    And remember this—-nobody has actually read that bill, or seems to know what’s really in it—yet it’s become the law of the land! “And whaaaaaat’s behind Door #2?”

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Were it not for the scandal of Sr. Carol Keehan, NETWORK, and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, not to mention overbearing government making the operation of Catholic hospitals more difficult and more expensive, I would suggest that veterans be given to the Church to be taken care of.

    That’s what President Lincoln did during the Civil War in causing the Soldier’s Home to be located near the sisters who resided by what is now The Catholic University of America. At that time, the secular nurses who were taking care of the wounded soldiers were taking advantage of them financially — enticing the men to marry them in order to get the soldiers’ inheritance. In order to put a stop to the practice, President Lincoln decided it would be better to have the sisters provide nursing to the soldiers (since the sisters didn’t marry).

    Unfortunately, largely because of government usurpation and involvement in the healthcare industry, the Church has been impeded in her mission to provide healthcare herself to the sick and ill and wounded.

  • Nmissi

    Any time we involve outside parties in the payment of medical bills, we’re wasting money. The government getting involved is not going to solve that problem, it will only redirect money from the insurance company hangers-on to federal employee hangers-on. We need real “single payer” healthcare- where everything is out of pocket except catastrophic coverage; that could be bought the same way car, home, and life insurance is.

    When I was a young, new mother, we had no insurance. Pediatrician’s bills were 20.00 cash per visit. When we finally got insurance, they were a 20.00 copay and 40.00 billed to the insurance company. This kind of stuff happens everywhere, and this is why our healthcare system is broken.

  • Doc

    Interesting story about your father, Rand. My father was on a destroyer at the time, and may have escorted your pop to one of those exotic beaches he landed on. Dad is a life-long Democrat, UAW man, former precinct captain. I too, try to avoid commenting on politics, as I’d rather enjoy my time with my father than argue with a stubborn old man.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    We need real “single payer” healthcare- where everything is out of pocket except catastrophic coverage

    Imagine if healthcare were opened up to the free market the same as any other commodity or service. Imagine if we had done the same thing for the medical industry as we did for the IT industry — get the government out of it.
    Without government controls, the Internet has boomed, and the prices of computers, MP3 players, CD and DVD players, cell phones, flat screen TVs, and other products have plummeted.

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  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Bender, I suspect, among other things, we’d be well on the way to an actual cure for cancer (if we didn’t already have one), and that such conditions as autism and retardation could be greatly ameliorated; that older people would be living longer, healthier lives, and that chronic conditions, such as diabetes, would be greatly alleviated, without side-effect causing drugs.

    Sadly, I don’t think any of this will occur under socialized medicine.

    It amazes me that people actually put faith in a government run medicine, especially after the swine flu vaccine fiasco.

  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    In fact, he ended his remarks with, “…maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.”

    That’s taken quite a bit out of context. Have you even read the context? The full comment is quite a bit more thoughtful than your excerpt suggests.

    Obama: And end-of-life care is one of the most difficult, sensitive decisions we’re going to have to make. I don’t want bureaucracies making those decisions… But what we can do is make sure that at least some of the waste that exists in the system that’s not making anybody’s mom better, that is loading up on additional tests or additional drugs that the evidence shows is not necessarily going to improve care, that at least we can let doctors know, and your mom know, that you know what, maybe this isn’t going to help, maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller… And those kinds of decisions between doctors and patients, and making sure that our incentives are not preventing those good decisions and that the doctors and hospitals all are aligned for patient care — that’s something we can achieve.

    {emphasis added}

    This may be a duplicate post. the last one got lost in the ozone.

  • Doc

    Sorry, Zach. That was not taken out of context. It was the money quote and worth repeating. Obama is a great deceiver. Since I’m not deceived I suppose you have to want to be deceived by him. The corporate media sure do. His speeches are packed with lies. He says he doesn’t want bureaucracies making those decisions, yet that is exactly what he knowingly created. He claims to want to eliminate waste, yet does not define waste. Since he has to know that government creates far more waste than the private sector, perhaps he has his own definition (like useless eaters, maybe?)

    When he lauds decisions made between doctors and patients, why does he punish doctors with this new monstrosity of a bill? We know he admires abortionists, and they are likely one of the few “specialists” who will not be harmed by this bill, so maybe he was specifically referring to decisions made between abortionists and their patients. He regards abortion as a good decision and he certainly is making sure his incentives are not preventing those.

  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    Doc: That was not taken out of context. It was the money quote and worth repeating.

    It wasn’t even the entire sentence. These are the relevant clauses just in the one sentence.

    not making anybody’s mom better
    not necessarily going to improve care
    maybe this isn’t going to help

  • Len Forys

    I think many of us who care for the elderly should look into the CLASS part of the Obama healthcare program.

    I think that it gives us the opportunity to get subsidized insurance for long term disability to allow our parents to live at home in their last years.

    Also, as a small business owner I am ecstatic about the subsidization of 35-50% of my health care costs through the new plan.

    I currently am paying $14k a year to insure my people. I can’t really hire office assistants or any lower salaried people. Finally I can.


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