Objectively Pro-Death Panel
I’m sure someone has already made this point, but if you take the idea of a “death panel” seriously, it doesn’t really seem like that terrible of an idea. As I’m sure most of you know, you can apply the Pareto principle (more commonly known as the 80/20 rule) to the distribution of health care costs – the vast majority of health care costs are generated by a distinct minority of consumers (it doesn’t actually have to be 80/20, though in this case, I think it is). And of course, the elderly are the overwhelming majority in that distinct minority. After all, they cost the most.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, for those 65 and older, average health care spending clocked in at $8,776. By contrast, average spending for Americans aged 45-64 is $4,863, and average spending for the next youngest group of Americans (25-44) is $2,305. What’s more, most of this spending is concentrated in the last year of life; according to a report released in 2001, the last year of life accounted for a little more than a quarter of all Medicare spending.
If we take the death panel claim seriously, then what President Obama is proposing is a board, of some sort, which would evaluate potential end-of-life treatments and reject those that didn’t meet a predetermined level of cost-effectiveness. Ethical considerations aside, if done correctly, these death panels could be a really effective way of bringing down total Medicare costs (which, as I’m sure you all know, are completely unsustainable over the long-term). It may not make us feel particularly good to deny great-grandma a pacemaker, but if we’re looking to cut waste, why not?