What’s the cost of a human life?

December 1, 2015

The expenditures for medical care in our country are “unsustainable,” says the Dallas Morning News, whereas The New York Times, in an editorial entitled “Why we must ration healthcare,” declares the monetary valuation of human life to be immoral. Everybody says we spend too much on healthcare, so they must be right. Right?

 

By Peter J. McDonnell, MD

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S. healthcare spending grew 5.3% in 2014-reaching $3 trillion or $9,523 per person. This amounts to 17.5% of gross domestic product (GDP).

The expenditures for medical care in our country are “unsustainable,” says the Dallas Morning News, whereas The New York Times, in an editorial entitled “Why we must ration healthcare,” declares the monetary valuation of human life to be immoral. Everybody says we spend too much on healthcare, so they must be right. Right?

Really? What is the right number? 10%? 15%?

What if I claimed that, at 17.5%, we were spending too little to care for grandma, for a baby born prematurely, or for a renal transplant in a 60 year-old who would be declared “too old” to have the operation in many other countries?

 

What if I asserted the correct percentage of GDP to spend on healthcare is 25%-what evidence would these authorities provide to prove me wrong?

I completely understand that we have competing priorities in our country, and as a result, we have to limit the funds we spend on caring for the ill and those with disabilities, improving the functioning and productivity of people with cataracts, bad hips, and other quality-of-life impediments, and letting people with cancer be cured or live longer.

No doubt if we spent less on healthcare in America we could free up those “Benjamins” for other more meritorious purposes:

 

1. Americans spend $25.3 billion annually on video games. Clearly, this is way too small an allocation of GDP and represents an exciting avenue for redirecting health-care dollars.

2. Americans spend an average of 23 hours per week (about 14% of their lives) online. And Americans are shelling out a paltry 20% of what they spend on healthcare to be able to text or tweet anywhere and anytime (OMG! and LOL!). Marissa Mayer received $42 million last year in her role as chief executive officer of Yahoo. No doubt, the important contributions made by this Internet company (none occur to me offhand but they must exist) could be juiced by doubling that number to $84 million.

3. Our government allocates $148 billion per year on farm subsidies, paying farmers not to grow crops while price supports for sugar farmers in the United States amount to $3.5 billion annually. Admittedly, these efforts have not gone unrewarded-sugar consumption has more than tripled in the past 50 years. If we could only free up more dollars from healthcare, we could easily afford to double the amount of farmland lying fallow and subsidize further the market for sugar in our country. This would make a measurable impact on the problem so apparent from even the briefest of visits to shopping malls and diabetes clinics in the United States; still not all of our fellow citizens are obese and some pathetic individuals are still filling themselves up with broccoli and fresh fruits and veggies when they could be enjoying more sugar. Let’s “just say no” to hypoglycemia!

4. Kobe Bryant will earn $23.5 million this year and the NBA generates more than $4 billion a year in revenue. Add in the $13 billion and $9 billion for professional football and baseball, respectively, and one can readily appreciate that we may not be allocating enough of our GDP to professional sports. A modest doubling of that number would address the problem, while all the newly created ESPN channels that would be required to televise all these games would allow Americans to spend more time on their couches where they belong while simultaneously ensuring full employment for blondes (as 100% of them would be working as sideline reporters).

 

 

It is clear that, with these attractive alternative uses of funds, we can tolerate no longer all these expenditures on healthcare! Let’s stop wasting our greenbacks on treating illness and improving quality of life and direct it to watching sports on television, video gaming, enjoying sugary snacks and surfing the web. The time to protest is now!

Don’t make me and my fellow citizens turn off our flat-screen TVs, put down our video-game controllers and close our laptops, put our bag of snacks aside, remove our feet from the ottomans, and place them back on the floor and take to the streets! 

 

References

Cost of care: The U.S. health care system is bleeding green
http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20150131-cost-of-care-u.s.-health-system-is-bleeding-green.ece

Why we must ration health care
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/magazine/19healthcare-t.html?pagewanted=all

Americans spend $25.3B each year on video games
http://venturebeat.com/2010/05/09/americans-spend-25-3b-each-year-on-video-games/

Americans spend 23 hours per week online, texting
http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/4718-weekly-online-social-media-time.html

Are you paying too much for cable and internet?
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/ng-interactive/2015/feb/22/america-cable-internet-costs-mapped-interactive

Marissa Mayer docked $13 million and still made $42 million
http://money.cnn.com/2015/04/30/technology/marissa-mayer-pay/

That sickening sugar subsidy
http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2013-03-13/that-sickening-sugar-subsidy