This is one of the many thorny issues that must be addressed to stem healthcare costs:
WSJ: The widespread use of expensive cancer drugs to prolong patients’ lives by just weeks or months was called into question by an article published Monday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Crunching data from published studies, the authors found that treating a lung-cancer patient with Erbitux, a drug that costs $80,000 for an 18-week regimen, prolongs survival by only 1.2 months.
Based on that estimate, extending the lives of the 550,000 Americans who die of cancer annually by one year would then cost $440 billion, they extrapolated.
This issue is one that exists in every healthcare regime, everywhere, whether it’s a private system or a more public one, like what we’re moving to.
There’s nothing wrong with spending $80,000 to prolong your life by 1.2 months if you’re the one paying for it, and your family is left with an estate that’s $80,000 lighter. But any system that involves a third party — whether it’s the taxpayer or insurance companies — becomes instantly problematic, for reasons that are obvious.
It’s easy to say that putting people on the hook for more of their own costs would work, but then, having insurance companies pay for high-cost, unexpected treatments is the main case for an insurance-based system. On the other hand, end-of-life cancer care isn’t really that unexpected.
No easy answers.
Says Tom Kirkendall: “I have many reservations about the direction of the Obama Administration’s proposed reforms of the U.S. health care finance system. But that the proposed reforms are triggering discussion of key issues such as the one set forth above is not one of them.”
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