Assessing Real Value and Cost in Life

Physician's Money Digest, February28 2005, Volume 12, Issue 4

The political geniuses who runour country have spent trillionsof dollars over the years in thehope that something goodmight come of it. Each year, billions ofAmerican tax dollars are spent on housing,education, welfare, and job training.

While the achievements for those massiveexpenditures are certainly subject tointerpretation, I believe that much—butnot all—of the effort has been meaningful,if mostly undocumented. Although not ablind supporter of current governmentassistance efforts, fundamentally, I stillbelieve in making an investment in people.

Bigger Numbers

The challenge, of course, is gettingpoliticians to admit when something doesnot work—even in the face of unmistakableevidence. That's difficult when theirreal goal is to keep the money spigot running,regardless of merit. (I maintain thatif Americans ever knew the real measureof waste and fraud in our social programs,they'd go screaming into the night.)

Washington Post

That's why I'm baffled by the howlingfrom big media and clueless politiciansabout the true costs of the new Medicareprescription benefit program. Bush administrationofficials now estimate thatthe senior drug program will clear $724billion over 10 years beginning in 2006.That's a second revision, up from an original$400 million claim made in 2003.The , that implacable foeof government spending, estimates thetrue cost will clear $1 trillion.

This focus reveals another misplacedpriority. Heck, over the next decade,Americans will spend more than $3 trillionjust at convenience stores. And atleast the Bush people—unlike their critics—are "trying" to put a price on things.

Use or Lose?

A recent National Center for HealthStatistics ( report showsthat America is increasingly reliant on prescriptiondrugs to maintain health. Nearly45% of citizens take at least one Rx drug,and annual health care spending is $1.6trillion—about 10% is spent on drugs.Since 1995, drug spending has climbedfaster than all other health segments.

So, here we have products that trainedphysicians and their patients who canaccess them think work (granted, thereare abuses by both parties). And nowsome, who have never cared about thecost of anything before, are furious.

Few are making this vital point: About10 million US seniors, previously denied,will now have greater drug access. It's sensibleto reason (doctor-readers can opine)that future spending on debilitating healthevents (ie, expensive surgery, hospitalization,and lost work and family time) willdecline once effective drugs are properlyadministered. I'll trust in science here.