Besides the issues of world peace, economic depression, environmental degradation and the unending political issues that the changing world is facing, there is one more immediate concern that every country-the government and the society, have to include in their list of priorities. The world is changing and definitely growing old and so are its people.
If all people are just being aware of the current issues faced by the world today, one will know that the world’s aging population is struggling to overcome the threat of cutting its healthcare benefits and the government’s healthcare assistance in consideration of few other things.
The issue is all about discontinuing the excessive provision and assistance on healthcare services to the elderly. For social, moral and ethical considerations, I would have to say definitely no.
In this paper, we will examine the reasons behind the rise of the healthcare issues for the elderly as seen by the government and those in the medical field. We will also have to consider the economic impact of this healthcare assistance provided for the elderly in order to see if the elderly are really posing too much burden for the government and the community.
On the other hand, this paper will also examine the social, moral and ethical considerations that this paper are hoping to convince the readers that the elderly should deserve to have a continuing healthcare services until their death.
OVERVIEW OF THE ELDERLY HEALTHCARE ISSUES
While there have been many studies and surveys done relative to the percentage of the older population in the global context, this paper have chosen to use the data and reported by the United Nations. According to the projection made by 1UN, the elderly population will increase from 8% to 14% from 1950-2025, a gap of 75 years.
This projection will give us an estimated figure of 1.2 billion elderly global populations by 2025. AS with global distribution, the Commission for Social Development of the United Nations projects that most of the elderly will live in the developing countries.
The same body estimated that 70% of those who are 60 years old and above would live in the developing countries. Reports further say that Italy will be the oldest nation in 2000 of which 18% of its population will comprise of the older people ages 65 and above. With just a bit lower percentage are the countries of Sweden, Belgium, Greece and Japan (RAND, 2001).
What are behind these figures are the issues that directly concern the elderly population. These issues include the increasing cause of the healthcare facilities that these population needed including the need for adjusting or better yet re-programming of the existing long-term healthcare programs by the government.
There are basically two aspects of the issue that we have to consider: the reality of the increasing number of our elderly people including their needs and the reality that the costs of healthcare services and facilities are increasing.
It is just frustrating that the main focus of many is on the increasing healthcare costs for the elderly and that some even are asking, “Is it worth the price?.
Published online in the Scientific American, researchers have commented that “the increasing sums of money spent on health care in the U.S. over the past 40 years have provided good bang for the buck, even if some of the spending was wasteful” (Minkel, JR, The Scientific American, August 30, 2006). In the said report, researchers made a cost-benefit analysis of the annual medical costs and the additional life expectancy in four different age groups.
The study, which began in 1960, concluded that “more than half of the recent gains in life expectancy result from the benefits of medical care on infants and those with cardiovascular disease.
For them, the costs on the average is worthy since it had benefited the infants by improving their life expectancies. Let us take note that the conclusion is on the average and that the group stressed improvement on the life expectancies of infants. What about those of the elderly?
“The cost of tacking another year onto a senior citizen’s life grew from $46,800 in the 1970s to $145,000 in the 1990s” according to the report. Should that mean the high cost of elderly healthcare spending is not worthy in comparison with the infant benefits?
This group of researchers may find a buddy in the said issue in the person of Daniel Callahan, who is made famous by his book, “Setting the Limits: Medical Goals in the Ageing Society” published in 1937.
Callahan is an advocate of age-based rationing of medical costs. For Callahan, “the drain on health care resources to extend the lives of the elderly has the effect of violating the rights of the young to live out a “normal” life span” (Callahan, Daniel 1937).
Their argument is based on the grounds that the elderly persons, especially those ages 70 to 80 have generally achieved the normal life span and that at their age, they are expected to have achieved and goals in life. They have reiterated their stand on the issued by stating that the elderly persons “ought not to receive treatments to extend their lives at the expense of those who have not lived out a normal life span” (Callahan, 1937).
In another paper, Callahan have made his point clear by setting economic analysis of the cost of medical innovations and its impact on a nation’s national budget. 2Callahan used four examples of expensive healthcare technologies:
- Drug-eluting stent that is triple the price of earlier stents- Callahan stressed that the cost for this technology amounts to $4.6 billion, an amount that caused the annual budget to move up twice;
2. An improved ventricular assist device for use with patients who are not candidates for transplantation – this device according to Callahan’s calculation amounts to $16 billion a year,
3. Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator – with two million to four million patients annually, this device causes the nation to add $11 billion a year in its spending.
If we are to consider Callahan’s argument, we would have to be likely convinced that he has the point and worse we will be convinced that he has good enough reasons to make people, especially the government to believe that it is reasonable to cut down on the medical costs set aside for the elderly.