Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why Medicine Is Bankrupt

The New York Times has an incredible article about a 43 hour surgery for excision of an intraabdominal liposarcoma encasing the patient's internal organs. The surgery involved removing the tumor en bloc with the liver and other organs that it had invaded, excising the tumor, then reimplanting the liver.

The surgery was estimated to cost over $300,000 but I imagine ultimately it will cost at least $1 million after including postop care. The patient is described as a business owner who feels, "I've got too much fun ahead of me." My guess is that the patient has very good health insurance if he feels he can have an operation that expensive and still have enough money afterwards for "fun".

Isn't it ironic that right now there is so much debate about the cost of health care in this country yet the NY Times (We must have a public option) is glorifying a surgeon who performs an operation like this? Unless this patient is paying for everything in cash, you and I will ultimately pay for this. It is people like this who will cost the rest of us much higher insurance premiums and tax dollars. How can we have a rational talk about saving health care dollars when there are patients who refuse to accept a situation and are able to find doctors who will treat them, no expenses spared? And how did they convince the insurance company to pay for this? When these companies hire people to deny requests for a $10 lab test, they approved a million dollar operation of questionable medical value? It is no wonder no rational conversation about health care expenses is possible in this country.

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