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The cost of healthcare in the U.S. is one of, if not the, biggest underlying cause of the rising U.S. budget deficit.  As more and more people enter the Medicare program — an estimated 78  million within the next 20 years — our skyrocketing costs, the highest in the
industrialized world, will have a devastating effect on our government’s ability to deliver basic services. 

Within 30-35 years, according to some reliable estimates, the cost of the Medicare program will so cripple the federal government that all the nation will be able to do is pay interest on the national debt and a few entitlement programs.  We will not be able
to afford national defense, homeland security or any number of other “essential” federal services.  Today, the federal government is already borrowing money to pay physicians and hospitals for Medicare beneficiaries.

This is known as “the dirty little secret  that every elected official in Washington officials knows but almost no one wants to talk about” because of the career-ending political consequences of tampering with Medicare and Social Security.  

With that depressing analysis as a backdrop, I want to share an insightful article on healthcare costs that was  written for the Los Angeles Times and appeared in their editions for Thursday, June 17.  It is particularly perceptive because it was written by Stella Fitzgibbons, M.D., a board certified internist who works as a hospital-based physician — a
hospitalist — in the Houston area.  She focused the challenge of reducing healthcare costs using real life patient examples.

Her theme:  expensive end-of-life care and Americans’ unwillingness to accept anything less than gold-plated treatment practically guarantees that costs will continue to increase.  

I can just hear the death panel partisans if we attempt to have a national debate on this issue.

 Healthcare providers like Dr. Fitzgibbons are caught in a nasty trap — trying to control costs of care in a virtual cauldron of conflict with families demanding the best regardless of their  financial resources to pay for what insurance does not cover (which will be less and less) and the potential legal consequences if Doctors fail to do so.

Read Dr. Fitzgibbons’ article.