Healthcare and the Elderly
Danica Lauren Godri
Dateline: November 8, 2007. Location: Shady Acres Elder Care Facility, North of Tampa, Florida. A military personnel carrier caravan arrives at the front entrance. National Guard members enter the building, demanding everyone that is not a staff member to evacuate the premises. The officer in charge barks the order for them to take nothing; no momentos, no clothing, no money. Unsympathetic guardsmen, only doing their job, forcibly herd seniors into the caravans. Within an hour the job is complete, the former residents are on their way to the Human Termination Facility controlled by the Health Care Companies, and sanctioned by the government. As the last of the caravans pulls away, two workmen and a smiling executive arrive and erect a new sign. It reads: “Future Corporate Headquarters of American Healthcare and Insurance”. Yes! Cruel? Yes! Far Fetched? Not really, because the direction of healthcare for the elderly indicates that this could quite possibly be the bleak future. However, it does not have to be, nor should it be. Healthcare for the elderly should be unlimited. But it is not likely in a private, profit-driven healthcare system that is prevalent in the United States.
The private health maintenance organizations (HMOs) have replaced the traditional indemnity plans as the main source for health insurance in the United States. As private companies, their first priority is minimizing costs and maximizing profits. They base coverage decisions on cost benefit analysis. In theory, this is an excellent business practice. However, when applied to the health and well being of humans, this practice is exposed as cruel and uncaring. Approximately 14% of the elderly are uninsured (Grayson, 1998). At the same time, health insurance companies are also cutting people from their plans. According to the Healthcare Financing Administration (HCFA), 407,000 elderly Americans were dropped by Medicare HMOs in 1998, and 327,000 more will be cut loose this year (Business Week, 1999).
With increasing costs for traditional healthcare, and a greater life expectancy rate due to medical and technological advancements, the trend toward quality healthcare is on the rise. Although the cost of healthcare has increased, the spending by managed care organizations has not kept pace. According to the HCFA, healthcare spending in 1997 had its slowest increase in spending rates over forty years. Also, in 1994, Medicare and Medicaid spending rates were slowed (Nutrition Today, 1999). To allow the slowdown in spending, the HMOs have tried to make the cuts in the most expensive areas, which include the elderly. At a time in their lives, when good health care is at its most critical, seniors are being routinely denied as a cost-saving measure. It is unfortunate, because some other countries have found ways to provide healthcare to all of their citizens. In Scotland, the principal organization of healthcare will be the Primary Care Trust. This will be funded by health boards, and will be assigned to provide community, mental health, and disabled services, continuing care for the elderly, and all other primary care services normally found in general practice (Heaney & Hopton, 1999). These businesses seem to have found a desirable medium between quality healthcare and profit making. Contrast that with America, where the near elderly, who are in poorer health, run the risk of paying even higher premiums, having less comprehensive coverage offered, or being denied coverage altogether (Grayson, 1998)
As in all businesses, the methods to profit weighed against human cost present a dilemma. In the healthcare industry, the questions are even more acute. Cost cutting measures directly impact on the quality of life for America’s elderly. Managed care organizations have turned medical decisions into accounting decisions. It is unethical to have a business determine quality of life, or even the decision of life or death. It should be up to the patient to decide how much money is spent on their healthcare. How much a life costs compared against how much it is worth is the question that society faces.
Dateline: November 8, 2010. Location: Corporate Headquarters of American Healthcare and Insurance, North of Tampa, Florida. National Guardsmen are in a nervous standoff with the citizens of “Good Health for America”, a tent city whose numbers, both young and old, grow daily. They have come to demand health care. They have come to demand an end to the erosion of health benefits by American Healthcare and Insurance. They have come to let it be known that the right to medical treatment versus profit making is not a dilemma at all. Access to quality care should always come first.
A child wends her way through the mass of protesters and stops inches from the barrel of a guardsman’s rifle. Looking directly at American Healthcare’s gleaming glass edifice, she holds up a sign that says, “Don’t take away my grandma. I love her.”
(No author). (1999). Do Medicare and Managed Care Mix? Business Week. Vol. 3640, p. 36.
Grayson, M. (1998). License to Steal: Combating Healthcare Fraud. Spectrum: The Journal of State Government. Vol. 71, No. 1.
Grayson, M. (1998). The Near Elderly: Lost in the Legislative Shuffle. Spectrum: The Journal of State Government. Vol. 71, No. 4.
Heaney, D. & Hopton, Jane. (1999). The Development of Local Healthcare Cooperatives in Scotland. British Medical Journal.Vol. 318, No. 7192.
Williams & Wilkins. (1999). Health Care Spending. Nutrition Today. Vol. 34, No. 2.
About the Author
Danica Lauren Godri