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Death Counseling

Health Care Death Counseling 2009

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#1 Nittany Lioness

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 10:30 AM

This piece has me re-thinking what I thought was a driving factor in how private insurance looks at costs.

But anyway it also re-calibrates that pesky clause in the infamous bill that does really need to see the light of day instead of being punted as a political football:


The Truth About Death Counseling

By Charles Krauthammer

Friday, August 21, 2009

Let's see if we can have a reasoned discussion about end-of-life counseling.

We might start by asking Sarah Palin to leave the room. I've got nothing against her. She's a remarkable political talent. But there are no "death panels" in the Democratic health-care bills, and to say that there are is to debase the debate.

We also have to tell the defenders of the notorious Section 1233 of H.R. that it is not quite as benign as they pretend. To offer government reimbursement to any doctor who gives end-of-life counseling -- whether or not the patient asked for it -- is to create an incentive for such a chat.

What do you think such a chat would be like? Do you think the doctor will go on and on about the fantastic new million-dollar high-tech gizmo that can prolong the patient's otherwise hopeless condition for another six months? Or do you think he's going to talk about -- as the bill specifically spells out -- hospice care and palliative care and other ways of letting go of life?

No, say the defenders. It's just that we want the doctors to talk to you about putting in place a living will and other such instruments. Really? Then consider the actual efficacy of a living will. When you are old, infirm and lying in the ICU with pseudomonas pneumonia and deciding whether to (a) go through the long antibiotic treatment or (b) allow what used to be called "the old man's friend" to take you away, the doctor will ask you at that time what you want for yourself -- no matter what piece of paper you signed five years earlier.
You are told constantly how very important it is to write your living will years in advance. But the relevant question is what you desire at the end -- when facing death -- not what you felt sometime in the past when you were hale and hearty and sitting in your lawyer's office barely able to contemplate a life of pain and diminishment.

Well, as pain and diminishment enter your life as you age, your calculations change and your tolerance for suffering increases. In the ICU, you might have a new way of looking at things.

...

So why get Medicare to pay the doctor to do the counseling? Because we know that if this white-coated authority whose chosen vocation is curing and healing is the one opening your mind to hospice and palliative care, we've nudged you ever so slightly toward letting go.

It's not an outrage. It's surely not a death panel. But it is subtle pressure applied by society through your doctor. And when you include it in a health-care reform whose major objective is to bend the cost curve downward, you have to be a fool or a knave to deny that it's intended to gently point the patient in a certain direction, toward the corner of the sickroom where stands a ghostly figure, scythe in hand, offering release.
==================================

And this was food for thought too - Wowsers:


The Great 'Prevention' Myth

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, August 14, 2009

In the 48 hours of June 15-16, President Obama lost the health-care debate. First, a letter from the Congressional Budget Office to Sen. Edward Kennedy reported that his health committee's reform bill would add $1 trillion in debt over the next decade. Then the CBO reported that the other Senate bill, being written by the Finance Committee, would add $1.6 trillion. The central contradiction of Obamacare was fatally exposed: From his first address to Congress, Obama insisted on the dire need for restructuring the health-care system because out-of-control costs were bankrupting the Treasury and wrecking the U.S. economy -- yet the Democrats' plans would make the problem worse.

Accordingly, Democrats have trotted out various tax proposals to close the gap. Obama's idea of limits on charitable and mortgage-interest deductions went nowhere. As did the House's income tax surcharge on millionaires. And Obama dare not tax employer-provided health insurance because of his campaign pledge of no middle-class tax hikes.

Desperation time. What do you do? Sprinkle fairy dust on every health-care plan, and present your deus ex machina: prevention.

...

Reform proponents repeat this like a mantra. Because it seems so intuitive, it has become conventional wisdom. But like most conventional wisdom, it is wrong. Overall, preventive care increases medical costs.

This inconvenient truth comes, once again, from the CBO. In an Aug. 7 letter to Rep. Nathan Deal, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf writes: "Researchers who have examined the effects of preventive care generally find that the added costs of widespread use of preventive services tend to exceed the savings from averted illness."

How can that be? If you prevent somebody from getting a heart attack, aren't you necessarily saving money? The fallacy here is confusing the individual with society. For the individual, catching something early generally reduces later spending for that condition. But, explains Elmendorf, we don't know in advance which patients are going to develop costly illnesses. To avert one case, "it is usually necessary to provide preventive care to many patients, most of whom would not have suffered that illness anyway." And this costs society money that would not have been spent otherwise.

Think of it this way. Assume that a screening test for disease X costs $500 and finding it early averts $10,000 of costly treatment at a later stage. Are you saving money? Well, if one in 10 of those who are screened tests positive, society is saving $5,000. But if only one in 100 would get that disease, society is shelling out $40,000 more than it would without the preventive care.

That's a hypothetical case. What's the real-life actuality? In Obamaworld, as explained by the president in his Tuesday town hall, if we pour money into primary care for diabetics instead of giving surgeons "$30,000, $40,000, $50,000" for a later amputation -- a whopper that misrepresents the surgeon's fee by a factor of at least 30 -- "that will save us money." Back on Earth, a rigorous study in the journal Circulation found that for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, "if all the recommended prevention activities were applied with 100 percent success," the prevention would cost almost 10 times as much as the savings, increasing the country's total medical bill by 162 percent. That's because prevention applied to large populations is very expensive, as shown by another report Elmendorf cites, a definitive review in the New England Journal of Medicine of hundreds of studies that found that more than 80 percent of preventive measures added to medical costs.

...

You will hear some variation of that claim a hundred times in the coming health-care debate. Whenever you do, remember: It's nonsense -- empirically demonstrable and CBO-certified.
===========================================

Edited by Nittany Lioness, 24 August 2009 - 11:54 AM.

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#2 Vapor Trails

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 10:41 AM

Oh, this doesn't surprise me at all. I've always sensed this. The longer you're alive, the more of a financial drain you are. I'm not naive enough to believe that most folks value life over money. Frankly, I believe the opposite. I've been through a number of experiences that have cemented that point of view permanently.
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#3 SparkyCola

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 11:31 AM

That link is not working for me, so here's another link to a list of Charles Krauthammer's articles on Washington Post.

However- you have to be a member to get into those so here's some better links:

The truth about death counselling

The Great 'Prevention' Myth

Nittany- please could you edit out some of each article? EI is not allowed to post entire articles due to copyright:

EI Guidelines said:

Due to copyright laws, entire articles must not be quoted

Thanks,

Sparky
Able to entertain a thought without taking it home to meet the parents

#4 Shalamar

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 12:18 PM

I saw the seciond article - the Friday one last Friday and read it through and was honestly afraid to post it here.

Quote

"Researchers who have examined the effects of preventive care generally find that the added costs of widespread use of preventive services tend to exceed the savings from averted illness."

How can that be? If you prevent somebody from getting a heart attack, aren't you necessarily saving money? The fallacy here is confusing the individual with society. For the individual, catching something early generally reduces later spending for that condition. But, explains Elmendorf, we don't know in advance which patients are going to develop costly illnesses. To avert one case, "it is usually necessary to provide preventive care to many patients, most of whom would not have suffered that illness anyway." And this costs society money that would not have been spent otherwise.

I read this and nodded, it makes perfect logical sense to me, and something I have felt for some time is / was being over looked, by those pushing the whole 'prevention' agenda. OR if not overlooked, deliberately ignored, in their fight to get the rest of the agenda down society's throat.

I figured bringing this up would just ignote a firestom from the rest of the board. I want to see health care in America corrected - for yes indeed it it broken and desperately needds fixing.

But I also hate, loathe indeed, the thought of 'fixing fast' that in the ends makes nothing better and perhaps worse. I'd rather this take a couple of years and gets it right than some quickie fix that will just make it worse.

And the Administrations and those of Cognress and Senate look to me like little more than quicky fixes. Just to get it done for political benefit.

Political benefit - the very thought of that makes me nauseous, and should ( in my opinion ) make all of us so very, very wary and willing to ask the hard questions.
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#5 Nonny

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 12:50 PM

I've had end of life counseling.  I had it when, a few months after I requested it at my VA hospital and some jerk snarled at me that they didn't do that, they did a 180 and sent me a letter asking why I hadn't had one yet.  Gotta love the VA.  I did my Advance Directive, and updated it before I had my cancer surgery a couple years ago.  I found the whole process reassuring, once they ironed out the jerks.
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