Thursday, April 23, 2009

Perspective on Costs

I hear arguments or complaints all the time about how we're denying so many people health care because "an insurance company won't pay for it" or "it's too expensive for them to cover it". For example, many times, patients and their families (and their doctors) will fight with insurance companies to get them a really expensive treatment or get an exception to get a certain patient a treatment that usually the insurance company would not approve, either because it's too expensive or isn't indicated. While I'm the last one to support the insurance companies and I think they could be doing a lot more to cut costs and provide more and better health care, I think that many people are lacking perspective about this topic.

I don't think anyone would disagree with the statement that the budget for healthcare is limited. We can't spend all the money we want to save everyone in the world. In the US I think this is often not understood well because we have a relatively wealthy country, but it 3rd world countries, like many in Africa, or in countries that have 3rd world elements (like India or China), this is readily apparent.

When someone or a group of patients can't get a treatment because it's too expensive, many people react with indignance and outrage. While I certainly understand this sentiment, and probably would feel it myself if I or one of my family were the patient, there's another side to the story... By providing that one patient (or group of patients) with that expensive treatment, you are essentially denying health care to another group of patients. Just take for example that a treatment costs $100,000 per patient to save their life. Of course you can't put a $ value on a life, but say that $100,000 could be spent on 100 other people to treat something else to save their lives. Or maybe to, say, treat their hypertension and prolong their lives for 20 years each. It's hard to say which is the right way to go, but personally, I think it should be spent for the greater good.

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