Saturday, September 5, 2009

Actually Existing Death Panels

We used to hear about "actually existing socialism," which was neither as bad as its worst critics said nor as good as its biggest fans said, with it ready to collapse in Europe 20 years ago for a variety of reasons. Lots of opponents of health care reform have been ranting about "death panels" that somehow might come into being due to it.

The problem is that we already have "actually existing death panels." They are called private health insurance companies that turn down more than 20% of payment requests, at least in California on average. A non-trivial number of these turndowns result in death, although it is hard to determine how many, although I suspect that our much poorer life expectancy number in the US is at least partly due to this.

Of course, many people go the other route and have too expensive medical procedures done anyway to save their lives. The upshot is that in 2007 the Journal of Medicine found that over 60% of personal bankruptcies in the US were due at least partly to medical spending, thousands of people per year. The number per year in Britain, France, Germany (and a much longer list of countries)? A big fat zero.

1 comment:

Jack said...

A major problem in getting the public to understand the details of any significant issue is either the lack of news media attention to important details or a focus of news media attention on trivia. The search for truth seems not to be part of the news media process.

The Calif Nurses Assoc survey findings is an excellent example of the news media's failure to cover the health care reform legislation adequately. While the LA Times and the Calif. Bee had articles about the survey, one is hard pressed to find additional news media attention to this important detail. The NY Times can't seem to find its way to publishing important facts. Not a word about this serious issue of coverage denial appears in that journal. What is of import in today's edition? An article highlighting the return of Betsy McCaughey, dissembler extraordinaire. Madame Death seems a good nom de guerre for that occasional health industry insider. That's the failure of our news media to provide informative coverage of the currently most important political discussion in America. Of course not a word in the WSJ.