Six-year old Kimmy Merrill fell into an abandoned well outside of Oswega, Pennsylvania, her cries unnoticed in the remote countryside until her mother Susan wandered within earshot of the well. Unable to save Kimmy even with the help of local firefighters, Susan pleaded for rescue workers to dig a hole parallel to the well. Desperate townspeople gathered around nervously as the night temperature began to plummet. The Oswega mayor finally took control of the situation, announcing that “the Oswega emergency council has determined that the cost of digging a parallel hole is prohibitive. Sorry folks, but we’re going to have to let the girl die.”
Unbelievable, right? Of course it is. I made up Kimmy’s story to highlight a fundamental truth about healthcare spending – when it comes to life-or-death decisions, cold-hard economic thinking rarely applies.
Currently, one percent of patients accounts for more than 20% of US healthcare spending. Despite efforts to provide hospice services to people near the end of life, many people are not admitted to hospice until just days before their death.
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