Are these healthcare costs rational?

Many of you have heard me “rant” about the unsustainable cost of healthcare in the United States, where Wikipedia reports total heath expenditures to be between 15% and 17% of GDP–about half again as much as other developed countries. So it’s probably no surprise that I recommend the article, The Cancer “Breakthroughs” That Cost Too Much and Do Too Little, which ran in the September 3 issue of Newsweek Magazine under the title How Much Would You Pay for Three More Months of Life?

Notably, two new prostate cancer drugs that cost $93,000 and $120,000, respectively, only helped patients live three and a half to four months longer. And a new pancreatic cancer drug that costs around $15,000 increased the median survival rate by only 15 days.

I applaud Newsweek for helping spur a necessary national dialogue about health and life. Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society, is quoted as saying, “we need to talk about rational use of care.”

In addition to the financial considerations, we all know of people whose quality of live has been marginal-at-best during the extended lifetime their treatments afforded.

So, I encourage us all: please read and discuss this type of information. We all want the wonders of medical science to maximize our lifetimes and our quality of life, and we should continue to fund research and development that can do so. However, we must also ask ourselves, “When is it enough?” Recognizing that at some point the end does come for each one of us, learning how and when to accept the inevitable with grace will ultimately lead to more rational decisions, and far more peaceful transitions out of the life we know.

One comment on Are these healthcare costs rational?

  1. By Andrew Lycans

    Great Newsweek article and Dave B. essay! Maybe someday as we evolve, both as a nation and a race, we may come to a better understanding of a holistic approach to health and healthcare. Just as with most challenges and difficult issues if we could focus more on being proactive rather than reactive we may find that we actually spend less and gain more. How much better served would we be if we spent a fraction of our healthcare costs on better education, preventative healthcare throughout our lives through better understanding of the relationships of our food sources, environment, exercise, etc., etc. Thank you for continuing to investigate, question and share with others.

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