When it comes to health care reform, something has to give

    It’s almost a cliche today that in order for something to be built, something has to give. That’s at the root of many of the discussions around the proposed health care reform scenarios.
    As WHYY’s Chris Satullo, explores in this week’s Center Square, it’s not always easy to give something up for the benefit of others.

    Listen: [audio: satullo20090726.mp3]

    Here’s a modest proposal: It’s a way to cut down on the more than 37,000 people who die each year in traffic accidents on America’s roads. Let’s just allow cars onto interstates one at a time, at 20-second intervals. Once on, they would travel single file, moving between high, flexible, padded guardrails.

    Estimated cost: one trillion bucks.

    So, you ready to do it?

    Wait? You’re not?

    Sounds crazy, you say?

    The cost, you say, would be prohibitive, in dollars and annoyance? No kidding. It’s a dumb idea. The point is though, we’ve just demonstrated something.

    When deciding national policy, at some point we simply must put a dollar sign on the value of a human life. Sure, there’s lots of room to debate how to do the cost-benefit analysis. But to pretend that only the evil-doers make such calculations is… absurd. Which brings me to the current hot center of absurdity, the Congress, and health care reform.

    Everyone wants to fix health care. But everyone want to pretend this can be done without, heaven forfend, rationing health care. The only people who’d do that are cold-hearted, amoral hellions, like, say, Canadians.

    People, people, people… we ration health care now. We may do it in such a Rube Goldbergian way that we don’t realize what we’re doing. But that doesn’t change the fact that we do ration care.

    Here’s how: We dole it out grudgingly to the poor, but deny it to those in dead-end jobs. We urge the young and stupid to forgo it. And we lavish it on the affluent and gray-haired. This system of rationing is broken. It costs tons to get poor results.

    No one in Congress on either side of the aisle has the guts to admit this. But here’s the thing: the only way to fix health care without breaking the bank is to figure out how to ration care more … well … rationally.

    This will no doubt tick off some of those who get a sweet deal now. But if America wants health care reform, America has to … grow up. That means accepting that some day you will die. And that it’s not fair to hog health care dollars in a quest to live forever, while others die unnecessarily for lack of care.

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