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Health reform won't stop people from dying
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I had a chance recently to talk with a physician who had strong ideas about health-care reform. I’m not going to tell you who it was because I didn’t tell him I was doing a story and, really, I hadn’t planned on it.
But he gave me lots of food for thought.
Basically, he said the current drive to remake health care in this country is short sided and could bankrupt us. He believes the politicians are rushing the process and refusing to face the issues that really need to be addressed.
He said he does believe reform is needed. Much of his plan centers on doing more preventive medicine, teaching people how to live healthier lives.
The rest of his plan, however, focused on reforming how sickness and injuries are treated and contained two basic prongs:
1. Increase the number of physicians. A true free-marketer, the doctor believes that if there were more doctors out there competing for patients they would find ways to cut costs, improve procedures and take better care of people.
Part of his argument here sounded xenophic. He said importing foreign doctors too often hinders patients’ care because of language barriers. So he believes more incentives and support need to be provided to Americans to get them into and through medical school. He said only 300-400 people complete medical school in Georgia every year. He wants that doubled.
2. Face the fact that people die. The doctor pointed out that people have the most spent on them for medical care in the last year or two of their lives. That spending, of course, is to prolong life as long as possible. And, he believes, the lives those people are leading at that time are not really that much fun for them.
The doctor thinks standards should be set for what medical procedures will be readily available to everyone. He didn’t give many examples but implied that, say, a heart transplant would be acceptable, insured and possibly subsidized for a child or young adult, but frowned upon when someone gets to be nearing 80. And that people should not be able to use public funds or insurance to keep someone on life support for years. On the other hand, an abssessed tooth or broken arm would be treated the same for young and old.
He did say that if people are willing and able to pay for extended or extreme, end-of-life care on their own without insurance, then they should be able to get it.
He believes the politicians should set the standards of care, or at least appoint boards that would. That would take case-by-case decisions away from insurance cmopanies, doctors and families.
He didn’t call them “death panels” as some in the debate have characterized anyone who would decide if someone’s life was worth saving.
He pointed out that for him he hopes when he gets old that he would turn down care that would cost $200,000 to extend his life for six months or so, if that money could be used to improve care for others, maybe buy flu vaccine for 2,000 children.
I’d like to think I’d make the same decision, but I’m not sure I’d be able to if I actually faced it. And I know I wouldn’t if I was making that decision for my wife or mother.

Godzilla update
Thanks to everyone who expressed an opinion about the breed of our neighbor, Godzilla the fish. I wrote about him a couple weeks ago. Robert Simmons of Hinesville said it looked like either a lake sucker or river sucker that he was familiar with in his native Michigan. The difference in those breeds is coloration and Simmons couldn’t tell which because the photo was in black and white. Chuck Smith of Hinesville thought it could be a grass carp. The color photo is still up on line if you’d like to check it out and give your opinion.
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