Healthcare Priorities are Just a Symptom

Bloggified by Jake on Saturday, November 28, 2009

A few weeks ago, my 80-something-year-old grandmother fell down while coming up the stairs from her basement while carrying a basket of laundry. She laid on the steps with a broken leg for almost 40 hours before a neighbor who has a key to her house went to check on her at the behest of my great aunt, who'd been calling on the phone and getting no answer.

Currently, my grandmother is in rehabilitation, learning to walk again. Or, rather, she's not. She doesn't want to participate in the exercise sessions and complains that they are too hard. She has been in the hospital for weeks, refusing to eat the food they serve her or to make any attempt at getting better. Fortunately, because of her age, the majority of her care is covered by Medicare. Otherwise, my dad and uncle would be on the hook for thousands of dollars of care that my grandmother doesn't want in the first place.

What has struck me about this whole incident is the upside-down nature of our nation's priorities. If my daughter fell down the stairs and broke her leg, her care would be determined by what kind of coverage I signed up for at my part-time grocery store job that I maintain only because I don't want to lose my health insurance. If I failed to get adequate coverage, I'd be dropping hundreds--probably thousands--of dollars out of my own pocket.

Because old people vote in inordinate percentages and kids aren't allowed to vote at all, America bases its domestic policies on prioritizing the elderly. School budgets get cut, classroom sizes grow, curriculum gets muddied to meet special interest demands, good teachers exit in droves for better paying jobs (in waitressing, for example), but social security and Medicare never take a hit. In fact, when social security announced that--because its annual rate of increase is determined by the change in cost-of-living and cost-of-living had remained the same from 2008--it wouldn't be increasing the benefits paid out this year, the Obama White House decided to send all senior citizens a check for $250, just for the hell of it.

Perhaps the most important thing to consider here is that my grandmother will never contribute anything to society again. I say this as a grandson who loves her, but the fact of the matter is that my grandmother's only contribution to society was caring for my grandfather and uncle until they both died. If she laid on those stairs until she died or if we spend six-million dollars to give her bionic body parts that allow her to fight a sasquatch and leap over speeding cars, the benefit to society is exactly the same. The cost, however, is zero versus six-million dollars.

My aforementioned uncle had Down syndrome and also received medical care paid for by your tax dollars (or maybe only if you live in Ohio. I'll freely admit I'm not sure whether my uncle's medical funding came from state, city, or federal taxes.) In 51 years of life, my uncle's greatest contribution to the world was several boxes of steno pads filled with handwritten names of dead celebrities. Yet in his final years, doctors performed multiple surgeries on his stomach, throat, intestines, and other organs that were just shutting down, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep alive someone whose parents had been told when he was born that he'd be lucky to make it to six.

In fact, when my grandmother, other uncle, and dad finally decided to stop all treatments on my uncle and put him in hospice, the state launched an investigation. If was their fear that his family had essentially decided, "Screw it. Kill the retard," and spent thousands of taxpayers' dollars trying to uncover the intricate plot, forcing the hospital to continue treatment until the inspectors were satisfied there wasn't some elaborate murder conspiracy at play.

What kind of success would you expect from a baseball team that continuously cut the budgets of its minor league affiliates, didn't scout for its draft, and kept paying ever increasing sums to over-the-hill players to stay at positions where they'd long since been unable to execute. Imagine if the Yankees still had Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield in their outfield cashing paychecks that would make Alex Rodriguez look like a pauper. What would the state of football be if Terry Bradshaw was still the quarterback in Pittsburgh, Steve Largent was still catching passes in Seattle, and Terrell Davis was hobbling along as Denver's top rusher? Basketball understands that while Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley may have been a Dream Team in 1992, there was a time for those legends to go.

Unless America can recognize the economic failure of investing in commodities with no room for growth while neglecting those that wither on the vine otherwise, we have no reason to expect this country to live up to the hype of either major political party.

1 sarcastic replies:

David Anaxagoras said...

Oh. You're Web site's all slick and everything now. I feel a little dirty visiting it. Speaking of dirty, is it wrong that I now have a raging hard-on for bionic Sasquatch-fighting Grandma? Please make that Book IV.

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