August 10, 2011
Medical InflationI have mentioned in previous writings how much I like old TV shows because they are a snapshot of the time. I saw such an episode the other day. It was an episode of a show called 'Police Story.' If I read my Roman numerals correctly, it aired in 1974.
It depends on what time of year the episode aired relative to my life, but, in 1974, I completed my first year of high school, my sister graduated high school, and my mom turned 50. It was quite an eventful year for my little clan.
I do a lot of channel surfing. When I ran across this particular show, I paused. Don Meredith (recently deceased) was in the episode. For those not old enough to remember, Dandy Don played quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, after playing at SMU. He was a member of the first broadcast crew that did Monday Night Football. I loved it back then. Meredith was great. He also did some acting back in the day.
The cast of the episode also included one Donna Mills. Dude, somebody tripped and spilled a whole bucket of hot all over that girl. And I didn't mind a bit!
Anyway, there was a part of the show in which Dandy Don had a meeting with his ex-wife. She wanted money (go figya). She told Don the doctors had told her she would die without a heart bypass operation. She said she and her current love could come up with a grand. But, she said, the operation would cost---wait for it---$6,000. Yep, six large to have your chest cracked in those days.
It wasn't such a done deal back then. My Uncle John's brother, Floyd, underwent the surgery in the early '70s. It didn't take. I went to his funeral a few days later.
Nowadays, the surgeons seem to have it down to a science. People go in and out, and they go into recovery. I'm sure it's not a day at the beach, but most people seem to survive heart surgery in the now.
I was curious about the cost. I went and googlized it. I found a site, healthcarebluebook.com, that put up a number. According to the site, a reasonable price for a bypass these days, allowing for 4 and a half hours in the OR and 10 days in the hospital, is $61,800. That's 10 times growth since 1974.
Inflation? Sure. But not nearly to that level.
I would say the greatest challenge facing governments these days is paying for health care. There are a few reasons for that. One is the aging population, to be sure. Another is just flat fraud, theft. Another is excessive medical care ordered by people in the profession, and excessive charges for said.
Over the course of my adult lifetime, two things have gone up in price far beyond the rate of inflation: medical care and education. Those are two things to which government has paid a lot of attention---and a lot of money.
It is my belief that a major driver of the increase in the cost of getting treated for a bodily malfunction has been the government. Anytime you pile up a bunch of tax money and ring the dinner bell, people will come a runnin'.
As the "super committee" is assembled in Washington, I would have them consider simply paying less for this or that. What are the doctors going to do, quit and go to work for Walmart?
Posted 1 year, 11 months ago on August 10, 2011
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