Health Care

Killing Granny

When it comes to health-care costs, end-of-life care is really the elephant in the room, according to Newsweek writer Evan Thomas. American health-care costs have grown almost 50 percent in the last decade, and almost one third of the money spent by Medicare—about $66.8 billion per year—goes to treating chronically ill patients in the last two years of their lives. Much of the geographical disparities in the cost of end of life care—Medicare averages $5,311 for a Honolulu patient, but $12,543 for a Bronx one—exist because some doctors order more tests and procedures. The medical care provided at the end of life may not serve the patient in important ways either; 70 percent of people want to die at home, but about half die in hospitals. Instead of treating death like "a scientific challenge to be overcome," Thomas suggests, the system should focus on easing death for the elderly by providing hospice care and the human contact that people in the old folks' home seem to crave.