Carnegie Mellon professor urges changes to end-of-life care
By Joe Napsha
Published: Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
The $15 trillion national debt might be considered the culprit in the nation's economic woes, but the country has a bigger challenge in cutting the estimated $75 trillion in promised Medicare and Medicaid benefits “in the most humane way,” a Carnegie Mellon University economist said Wednesday.
“The promised benefits are far more than we can pay. We have to reduce the amount of benefits ... and try to do it in the most humane way,” said Allan H. Meltzer, a political economy professor at the Oakland school, in a speech to a St. Vincent College audience.
A different approach must be taken to end-of-life care in order to put the government on a path to reduce the amount of unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Medicaid, which are estimated to range as high as $75 trillion, Meltzer told more than 180 students and faculty at the Fred M. Rogers Center on the Unity campus.
Paying for care
Patients in the later stages of life should have access to the care they want, but only if they are willing to pay for the treatment. That treatment should be priced at a sliding scale, based on the patient's income, Meltzer said. Faced with those “serious choices,” patients may opt to “die in peace and have hospice care,” Meltzer said.
Such measures are necessary because more than 50 percent of Medicare costs are incurred in the last six months of a patient's life, Meltzer said. At that point, the health care decisions should be left to the patient and his or her doctor, not insurance companies and bureaucrats. Under President Obama's Affordable Care Act, a panel of experts — the so-called death panels — would make those decisions.
Meltzer also took a shot at Obama's national health care plan, saying that while bringing health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans, the administration failed to take steps to create any more primary-care physicians. Thus, instead of waiting for care in an emergency room, Meltzer said they will be waiting in a physician's office and most likely be seen by a nurse practitioner because of the shortage of family doctors. To solve that problem, the health care delivery system has to be able to pay primary-care physicians more while paying specialists less.
Meltzer, a speaker in St. Vincent's Alex G. McKenna Economic Education Series, criticized the Obama administration's handling of the economy, saying the policy “has created uncertainty,” so much so that investors are sitting on “billions of dollars of capital” waiting to calculate the cost of health care, energy and taxes.
Meltzer, who has been a visiting professor at Harvard and served on the President's Council of Economic Advisers, said the economy is in a slow recovery and will continue on that path. He expressed concerns about inflation, particularly if the Federal Reserve releases more money.
If Obama wins another term, Meltzer said he sees a continuation of the political stalemate in Washington. If Republican Mitt Romney wins, it will take time for his policies to be implemented.
Meltzer said he believes that Romney can use lessons from his success in the business world to improve the economy. Romney has shown he can be a leader and can compromise to accomplish goals.
“That's two places where the president has been very weak,” Meltzer said.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-3562 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Big Ben honored, center Wallace fined
- Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic captures 1st PIAA championship in OT thriller
- Security guard watching ATVs on film set is charged with stealing 1
- Kovacevic: A great day to appreciate No. 68
- Adah man found guilty of child sexual assaults
- Treasurer shuts down Blawnox bar for drink tax delinquency
- Steelers safety Polamalu finds himself in tough position
- Orpik skates with injured teammates, not expected back soon
- Chat with Dejan Kovacevic: Dec. 13, 2013
- Sheriff: Colo. school shooter wounds 1, kills self
- LeBeau wants to come back as Steelers defensive coordinator