I keep hearing that the issues of the AARP have to be accounted for in any health care bill. My only answer to that is that yes they should be considered as thoroughly as possible. However, the overriding fact is that medicine can prolong life for a long time. The problem is that that prolongation is increasingly expensive in those last few years. Adding 1-5 years to each persons life at an average cost of the previous 15 years of medical care for that person is simply not something the US (or perhaps any country) can afford to do via an entitlement system. Beyond the age of 80, medical costs are as a rule a stop gap measure at best. Virtually everyone dies by 100. The average lifespan in the US is 78.2 years. Older people often suffer from dementia. They require more care. They contribute little to the US economy or even to US societal health. Often they are a huge drag on their families. Does it make sense to prolong this burden on the younger generations (both monetarily and emotionally)? Or does it make more sense just to let the oldest die of natural causes without making terrifically expensive attempts to prolong their lives for a few more years?
I am getting older myself, so these questions are no longer purely rhetorical. I am like everyone else. I feel the old should be cared for. Unfortunately, the entitlement health care system cannot afford to do that without bankrupting the system. If families can afford to do this, that is great. Few probably can. That still does not mean the government should assume this burden. It quite simply can’t afford to anymore than most families. For every Warren Buffet, who has remained productive into his late years, there are hundreds or thousands of others who are severe burdens on the system and even on their families. Medical statistics show that long term serious illness of parents can shorten children’s lifetimes by several years. The reality is that the government is not doing those children any favors by extending the torture of their parents deaths. The system has to acknowledge this. The system has to severely limit how much it is willing to spend on those who pass 80 (or even those who pass 70). The AARP has to complain. It has to guilt everyone who opposes them. That does not mean that the AARP’s lobby should win on all of its issues (as it seems to do).
Instead of acquiescence to the AARP lobby, hard decisions have to be made about this care. Many parents in the past have chosen to die quickly in order to have money left to give their children. They have chosen to forgo expensive medical care. They have realized they were dying soon no matter what happened. They have chosen not to be an excessive burden to their children. If the government alleviates them of this choice by bankrupting its own system, is that a good thing? Can the government afford to do this? Can the kids afford the taxes dictated by this government mandated choice by the parents? Will this force fed choice make the older generation apathetic about spending huge amounts on health care instead of miserly about it? I am in the baby boom generation. My generation is the one that will present a huge burden to those younger. If the course of government entitlements continues, will those younger spend all of their money supporting my generation’s health care? Does that sound fair? I want free health care, but I don’t want to rob those younger of their enjoyment of life. I find myself willing to die if extremely ill at an old age. I believe in preventative health care. I am hoping this will help. Can more be done in this area? Can a rational approach be passed with the strength of the AARP? Few politicians want to alienate this powerful group. Yet it would seem they have to be willing to anger this group in order to pass a rational health care bill.
Disclosure: no positions in these stocks at this time