Sunday, September 13, 2009

Medicare perversion

The NY Times details the struggles of a young kidney transplant patient. Apparently Medicare is all too willing to pay for a kidney transplant at a cost of over $100,000 but is only willing to pay for antirejection medications for 36 months if you're not over 65 years old or disabled. This poor patient thus lost her first kidney when she became unemployed and couldn't afford her drugs. Now she has a second Medicare paid kidney transplant but the clock is ticking on her eligibility for government paid medications. The cost of antirejection drugs is $1000-$3000 per month but the government would rather pay the much higher cost of a transplant than the lower cost of medications. This system points to one of the reasons Medicare is going broke. Arguments have been made in a previous editorial that in a rational world, we would pay more to keep younger patients healthy instead spending unlimited sums to maintain old age. But that is the power of older voters and the AARP.

Though I sympathize with the article's subject, I couldn't help but think something else is going on that isn't reported. The article said her "downward spiral" began when her dog chewed up her hearing aid, leading to the loss of her job then the loss of her transplanted kidney. But I thought she took her job precisely because it offered health benefits. Didn't her insurance cover hearing aids? Doesn't Medicare disability cover hearing aids? And even if they didn't couldn't she just go down to Walmart to get one and put it on her credit card? Couldn't her grandmother help her out with getting new hearing aids before catastrophe happened? What's her job worth to her? Does she just expect everybody to do everything for her instead taking the initiative to get her own hearing aid? Curious.

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