Quality Vs. Quantity: Health Care Rationing By Age

Submitted By bigdaddygogo
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Quality vs. Quantity: Health Care Rationing by Age A fifty-five year old man with hemophilia (bleeding disease) was admitted to the hospital with a fractured hip. To prevent bleeding he was given a new and expensive drug used to treat hemophilia. On the second day after surgery the new drug was stopped and a less-expensive drug was given. He started to bleed over the next twenty-four hours and required six units of blood. The new drug was reinstated for the remainder of his hospitalization. The cost for the less-expensive drug was $10,400 per day. The cost for the new and expensive drug was $92,400 per day. By the end of his hospital stay, this patient consumed over $1.2 million in drug therapy to control his bleeding (Capozzi 1279).
The use of new medical technology often comes at a shockingly high price. As a result, rationing “understood as the distribution of scarce resources within the healthcare system” (Brauer 27) has become a highly debated topic in the healthcare world. The lack of resources and cost of various procedures forces rationing. Patients, physicians, and insurance companies must work together to identify a feasible medical plan for the patient. With the increase of life expectancy and the need for medical coverage, age must be used as a criterion for health care rationing, though not the only criterion.
Health care rationing is becoming a much larger concern for the general population. In the year 2000 The World Health Organization said, “The number of people aged 60 and over is growing faster than any other age group” (qtd. in Giordano 83). The “battle” for health care between the elderly and the young will increase as this elderly generation continues to rise. The treatment cost for United States citizens is also rising at an alarming rate. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, “expenditures in the United States on health care surpassed $2.2 trillion in 2007, more than three times the $714 billion spent in 1990. . .” (qtd. in Romeo 28). There are simply not enough funds to pay for everybody’s medical needs. Rationing is inevitable. Elizabeth Floyd from the Healthcare Management Program at the University of Alabama states three reasons why healthcare rationing is essential:
First, about 43 million Americans have no health insurance . . . Second, the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not guarantee access to healthcare for all its citizens. Third, the U.S. healthcare system is the most expensive in the world, yet it excludes more people from care than does any other developed country. (Floyd 234) With the costs of health care and the number of Americans without health insurance, rationing becomes even more necessary in health care distribution. Health care rationing is essential, but there are queries as to who should control the decision-making. Who is the most qualified to manage health care allocation? There are three major parties involved in health care rationing: the patients, the physicians, and the insurance companies.
Patients play a large role in the rationing of their own health care. For example, when people get sick, they decide to either go to the doctor’s office, Emergency Room, or even to see anyone at all! These decisions ration their health care costs. Patients choose how they react to their own physical health and ration how they are going to treat their conditions.
The physicians may have the best judgment concerning the odds of living through a health care procedure, but should they have the responsibility of “playing God” and deciding who lives and dies? According to the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics, “A physician has the duty to do all that he or she can for the benefit of the individual patient” (Capozzi 1280). The physician has the responsibility and moral obligation to be unbiased in terms of saving the patient’s life. This code continues to