Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Who Should Pay for Betty Beauchaine's Hot Dog? (Have your cake and eat it Part II)

A cover article in the July 28th Wall Street Journal describes the efforts of healthcare professionals to reduce repeat visits by patients (“Cutting Repeat Hospital Trips – Simple Idea, Hard to Pull Off”). The first paragraph ends with the question, “Can hospital persuade discharged patients such as Betty Beauchaine to pass up a Fourth of July hot dog?”

The article proceeds to describe Betty as a 75-year old who suffers from heart failure. She went to the table at a picnic and said “I’m going to have a hot dog. If I’m dead in the morning, I’ll never know.”

Good for Betty! As great-grandmother, she has lived a lifetime and earned the right to make those kinds of decisions. From her statement, it is clear she is fluent in the risks and rewards of her behavior. She wants to eat the hot dog, and knows that it can kill her to do so.

But the Federal Government wants to take that decision away from her. Actually, it has been trying to do that for quite some time. Medicare has already socialized healthcare to a substantial degree. Thus, the outcomes between the delicious rewards of a July 4th hot dog and the ultimate risk of death generally fall on society to pay for. If Betty makes it through the night, but needs to head to the hospital as a result of the nitrate stick she consumed, everyone pays.

Should hot dog eating be banned? Of course not. Should healthcare be socialized? Of course not. Americans should be free to make decisions for themselves and receive both the benefits and suffer the potential consequences.

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