Quotes Of The Day – On Stephen Hawking

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Health Care, Quotes, Science

“The controlling of medical costs in countries such as Britain through rationing, and the health consequences thereof, are legendary. The stories of people dying on a waiting list or being denied altogether read like a horror script … People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.”
- Editorial from the Investor’s Business Daily

“I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.”
- Stephen Hawking responding to the editorial

Folks, I think a reasonable case can be made that the current reforms suggested won’t reign in costs to the levels that we need to prevent us from falling further into debt.

But these scare tactics about rationing and death panels are intellectually bankrupt and need to stop.

On this I hope we can all agree.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 and is filed under Health Care, Quotes, Science. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

31 Responses to “Quotes Of The Day – On Stephen Hawking”

  1. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    Q: What’s black and sits at the top of the stairs after a fire?

    A: Stephen Hawking.

  2. Nick Benjamin Says:

    Geez.

    I assumed that the quality of debate on Donklephant, which consists of random guys from the prestigious internet, would be lower than that of the Investor’s Business Daily editorial pages.

    Apparently I was wrong.Very, very, very wrong.

  3. kranky kritter Says:

    Rationing healthcare?

    First point: we already ration it now, especially by the various protocols routinely followed. Anyone who has ever had a relatively minor problem take months and months to treat knows this:

    Let’s try rest and an anti-inflammatory.
    No good?
    OK, let’s try a cortisone shot and some physical therapy.
    Still no good?
    OK, let’s try another shot and more therapy.
    Still no good?
    Ok I guess we need to get some actual imaging.
    Etc.

    I wish folks would all acknowledge this first point. While also taking care to notice that I am explicitly pointing out that such rationing is NOT unreasonable. Rationing has become a 4-letter word, but rationg is, at its essence, umm, rational.

    Second point: to try to control costs further, we will need to ration MORE. We have a limited supply of healthcare and an infinite demand. People will consume as much healthcare as they need or think they want without regard to cost when they are substantially shielded from the true costs. Meanwhile, new doctors flee the field of primary care, and so on.

    Now, boogeyman stories like the ones Justin are botchng about are quite possibly gross exaggerations of what we’ll see in the future. Cheerfully granted. Even so, notice that the effectiveness of such tales is increased by our collective denial of the fact that care is already rationed somewhat now, and by the unavoidable fact that we’ll have to find more ways to decently and fairly ration care in the future.

    So I’ll agree that the “scare tactics and death panels” should stop, just as soon as everyone forthrightly acknowledges that rationing must be on the table. It’s not of question of whether to ration. It’s a question of how best to supplement the already existing forms of rationing.

  4. michael reynolds Says:

    Hey, guys, I’m filling out my application for a position on the death panel. I could use some help.

    Should I describe myself as, “Compassionate toward all God’s creatures unless they’re uninsured?” Or should I go with, “I say kill ‘em all and let God work out the co-pay?”

  5. Aaron Says:

    Michael, thank you for giving me a much needed laugh this morning. :)

  6. Jay Says:

    Yeah Michael, That was awesome. Much needed laugh. I want to post that on my facebook status.

    And yes, I agree that the scare tactics including euthanasia have absolutely got to go. There are things that worry me about healthcare reform, but I can’t debate someone who uses the death panels as a defense of the current system.

  7. John Burke Says:

    We can all agree that there won’t be any “death panels” but you cannot “reform” health care without discussing “rationing.” The whole point of a comprehensive change that extends care to tens of millions of people is to alter the current patterns of rationing (imposed for the most part by the marketplace, albeit a heavily regulated one in which the government is already a big player) in some way or another. This should be as plain as the nose on your face; if health care resources remain finite while access to them becomes more equalized, the reult is to shift some measurable amount of care from Groups A and B to Groups C and D.

    This may well be fair. But instead of grappling with this obvious and inevitable result, Obama and many Demorats continue to talk in gliib generalities, which are increasingly so unaligned with the reality of the bills in Congress as to be totally misleading (so GOPers with their spooky death panels and what not are the only dissemblers).

    Take one glaring example: Obama keeps saying that seniors won’t miss a thing and if you like your current plan, you can keep it. Maybe it will turn out that way in the end, but the bill that actually passed the House would cut Medicare by $362 billion (not chump change) and slash the federal subsidies to Medicare Advantage programs by $156 billion, effectively putting an end to Medicare Advantage.

    Now, Medicare Advantage may not be the best way to organize Medicare services. Still, the plans are enormously popular. Some 20% of the 42 million Medicare beneficiaries have chosen to enrol in a Medicare Advantage plan. These plans combine federal Medicare payments with a broader private managed care insurance program (which has to be approved by the feds). Insurers offer a myriad of these plans, allowing seniors to choose one they prefer to meet their needs. In enrolling, the senior allows the insurer to collect all the federal Medicare payments applicable to his/her care, while also paying additional premiums and copays to the insurer. Presumably, this means the insured can access doctors, hospitals, prescription drugs, etc., including services a=that Medicare won’t pay for at all or in part, through a single comprehensive plan (and one insurance card).

    So under the House bill, at least these eight million Medicare Advantage enrollees would NOT be able to keep the plan they have and like. And all other Medicare beneficiaries would have to be nuts to trust that their interests will not be sacrificed via hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts as the Democrats scramble frenetically to pass some bill – any bill — by their self-imposed deadline.

    I mean really, you have 42 million people who deserve to be given detailed accounts of how “reform” will impact them (not to mention the other 200 million insured). Instead, they are getting those glib generalities and soothing talk or they ar being attacked as cranky nay-sayers. So who is responsible for the way the debate has careened off the track of “reasoned, informed debate?” Wouldn’t you think that the people who control the White House and both Houses of Congress and are framing and pushing the reforms should be held accountable for that, too?

  8. mw Says:

    @MR
    I suggest you go with something that the HCBPMABNINRRIN (Health Care Best Practices Medical Advisory No Its Not Rationing Really Its Not) Board really needs…

    “Magical realist. Skilled in altering reality by chanting glib Obama magical incantations. Capable of making a $46 trillion dollar unfunded Medicare liability disappear with a wave of the magical Harry Potter “squeeze out inefficiencies with software” wand. Proficient in Jedi mind trick with large crowds (You should include video as proof. Something like this: Wave hand – This will only cost $1T. Wave hand – It is all paid for by taxing the rich. Wave hand – there will be no rationing. Wave Hand – Medicare is more efficient. Wave hand – This bill will not harm you – let it pass).”

    That’ll get you the job., Mike – Good luck. We’ll all need it if this passes.

  9. Agnostick Says:

    It’s worth noting that the cowardly editors of Investors Business Daily have edited out the comments where they got caught with their pants down… they claim that “This version corrects the original editorial which implied that physicist Stephen Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, did not live in the UK.”

    Yeah. Uh-huh.

    Agnostick
    [email protected]

  10. Jason Arvak Says:

    But these scare tactics about rationing and death panels are intellectually bankrupt and need to stop.

    I think the problem is that once people like Peter Singer start publicly arguing in favor of the administration’s proposals by suggesting openly that treatment should in fact be denied to some people whenever there is a finding that the treatment would not result in enough “quality life years” to justify the cost, concerns about how far such vague and potentially abused frameworks might extend are not really intellectually bankrupt.

    It is worth remembering that there actually are people like Singer out there in positions of potential influence that DO advocate euthanasia for the disabled when and if the disabled person does not, in the opinion of the theorist, have “quality of life”. So while I think the Hawking example is obviously misplaced, it doesn’t mean that the entire category of concern is stupid on its face.

  11. Richard Says:

    They are not scare tactics! Rationing happens, every day. I live with the NHS, I pay for it, you don’t!

    I live in the UK. I was earning well under average wage, but only paid when I worked (I was part-time in one job, and self-employed for other work). I had to pay for my own treatment when I injured my back as I could not afford the time off work to wait for NHS care, yet I still had to pay tax for other people’s healthcare, even if they earned far more than I did.

    To add insult to injury I paid VAT (sales tax) on that treatment, at 17.5%, and later when I was employed full-time with a company offering employee health insurance in order to avoid the same issues I had to pay tax on that ‘perk’. I was still not paid more than average wage.

    The NHS is unfair, and some of the people who suffer most are the ones with low pay and the elderly.

  12. mw Says:

    What is actually “intellectually bankrupt”, is to conflate the “death panels” and “rationing” memes. The “death panels” are obvious hyperbole and deserving of derision.

    Rationing is reality as clearly articulated by KK and Burke. Yes, health care is being rationed by insurance companies. That is why they are solvent and why they are easy targets for demonization by Obama. Heath Care is not currently being rationed in any meaningful way by Medicare. That is why it is so well liked, and why it is insolvent with a $40+ trillion unfunded liability. There are not enough rich people to pay for this, Obama and the administration are not being honest about the simple fact that “controlling costs” = rationing, because they know it is politically unpalatable. The people who will be impacted most (the elderly) are seeing through the transparently deceptive rhetoric and are having none of it.

  13. Justin Gardner Says:

    Mike,

    Yes, I’m conflating the two. They’re inexorably linked in the right-wing arguments. At least the ones I’ve read.

    We’ve already got rationing via private industry that condemn people to death…but critics are saying that Obamacare will lead to rationing (via death panels), even when none of the plans have any mention of this. So they’re essentially arguing that government involvement will lead to something that already exists while ignoring that government involvement will allow more people access to the care they need because they’re getting rid of the pre-existing condition clause. To me that’s an intellectually bankrupt position.

    However, I said we can have a discussion about cost controls because the Obamacare plan doesn’t institutionalize rationing the way the private industry does. To me, this is the moderate Republican criticism, and it’s a valid one.

    Again, maybe I’m missing something, but I thought all that was pretty clear from the post.

  14. Agnostick Says:

    Right before I shut down things for the next 2-3 hours, I’ll repeat the same question that I heard Bill Maher ask on his program three or four weeks ago:

    Why should our health care industry be a profit-driven industry? What do we really gain from it? Would we get better care, better products, and better services if it were inherrently non-profit?

    Agnostick
    [email protected]

  15. tal Says:

    living in Britain, I can see the laughable inacuracy in this article…yes we do have waiting lists however large this problem is it isnt based on abilit but priority in terms of how far along a persons condition is. No our health services aren’t perfect but they are available to anyone who needs them free of charge which is never a negative thing…the problem is that people beleive this corporate sponsored BS and fail to notice the the amount spent on the NHS is so much less than that squandered on arms and bail outs…WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!

  16. Jason Arvak Says:

    I wouldn’t agree with the inflammatory term “death panels”, by any means, Justin. But with people like Peter Singer waiting in the wings as “ethical experts” for possible appointment to panels of “experts” that would be empowered, like in Britain, to decide when the cost-effectiveness of treatment has been exceeded in particular cases, I would not be quick to dismiss the entire concern out of hand. It is at least reasonable to insist that health care reform include very careful and specific limitations on the power of government to limit life-saving and life-extending care. The criteria should be spelled out explicitly rather than being left to the potentially arbitrary and even horrific subjective determinations of “experts” like Peter Singer.

  17. Trescml Says:

    The question is since rationing is going to happen (and is happening) would your prefer some government panel or a health care industry that has a financial motive to deny coverage?

    Another piece may be price restrictions. If you don’t want to limit the amount of health care you provide, then your only other option is to limit the price that is paid for it.

  18. When you don’t know what you’re talking about… « MNpublius.com Says:

    [...] [Via Donklephant] August 13, 2009, 1:00 pm | Category: Misc. National Politics | [...]

  19. Chris Says:

    I had thought, that in the last 8 years we had reached the peak of this country’s retardedness. But the republicans continue to surprise and amaze.

  20. Jib Blansted Says:

    Sounds like the good doctor is making an endorsement of the current system. I’m sold. Let’s keep it as is. Maybe we should focus on the malpractice stuff that prevents sufficient and affordable care.

  21. Tom Says:

    I agree with Chris…as an Independent that has no more inherent trust for Democrats than the right, the GOP has cornered the market on stupidity…again…
    Guilty of the MOST unpatriotic thought processes and behaviors and institutionalizing them for easy access by using the low reader audiences of a couple of talk show goons (Beck and Limbaugh) as guinea pigs and cannon fodder…many apologies to thoughtful, intelligent goons for that insullting comparison, though…they deserve better ‘representation’ than those two or virtually anyone associated with the Cartoon network of news…Fox…
    Rationing is done because it HAS to be done…always was, always will be…the attempt is to take the person’s income out of the mix…
    But in reality, that won’t happen either… I’m an RN that sees people denied coverage for all kinds of important, potentially life prolonging procedures and medications everyday, even people with paychecks. The system has a built in safety valve for reducing the potential litigation of MD’s whereby OTHER parties get scores of useless tests-especially in emergency rooms when they shouldn’t or they at least should have been going to a primary care care physician outside of the hospital first…
    There are many other ways the health care system in America needs to be overhauled and at least Obama is trying…what have the Republicans done? Outside of defining the term ‘useless’ by their very presence in any argument, nothing…
    Republicans got their asses handed to them last November after years of lying to themselves and the rest of the world about a ‘permanent majority’-and they’re angry and lost. ..but they want to take the rest of the country down the same hole they’ve dug for themselves.
    Dems have at least their share of crooks, liars, and incompetents, but no one has embraced hate/fear speech, riot gathering,or the complete inability to comprehend what ‘morality’ and ‘intelligent debate’ actually mean like the GOP and those supporting their ‘platform’-kinda hard to support something that isn’t there though…

  22. mw Says:

    “Rationing is done because it HAS to be done…always was, always will be… – Tom
    “Rationing has become a 4-letter word, but rationing is, at its essence, umm, rational.” – KK
    “you cannot “reform” health care without discussing “rationing.” The whole point of a comprehensive change that extends care to tens of millions of people is to alter the current patterns of rationing…” – Burke
    “…rationing is going to happen (and is happening) would your prefer some government panel or a health care industry…” – trescml

    OK – . So then I see this in an e-mail from David Axelrod, The same e-mail that I am sure everyone who contributes and comments on this site also found in their in-box yesterday.

    “Reform will stop “rationing” – not increase it: It’s a myth that reform will mean a “government takeover” of health care or lead to “rationing.” – David Axelrod

    So, tell me again – Who is lying about Heath Care Reform? Where are the lies and misinformation coming from?

  23. gr8snd Says:

    Um, Medicare is not for profit and has administrative costs well below for profit insurance. Apples and apples homey. I don’t want an insurance company whose primary focus is their investors and not my well being. When you look at it from that angle what do you come up with?

  24. Nick Benjamin Says:

    mw,

    It’s 100% true that the current bills will not increase rationing, and will lead to neither a government takeover or more rationing.

    As far as I can tell the only part of his statement that’s literally untrue is that “Reform will stop “rationing.” Even that is qualified by the quotes around “rationing,” which indicates he’s not talking about rationing per se, but rather talking about rationing as it’s being used in this particular debate.

    Hyperbole is a little different than claiming a counselor of Grandma’s choice, helping her write a Living Will, is a Death Panel that will kill her because she’s not worth keeping alive. One guy is not a panel. Grandma doesn’t have to show up if she doesn’t feel like it, and if she doesn’t like what the counselor tells her she can ignore him.

    Heck as hyperbole in US politics goes Axelrod’s a wanker. He did not mention Hitler or Communism. If you’re angry at a political operative for using that wussy level of hyperbole no wonder you’re an independent. Everyone does that, so you’re pissed at everyone.

  25. Bucky Says:

    The quote from Investor’s Business Daily was wrong, but the way we’re (USA) doing it is already messed up because we negotiated away the ability to use buying power with prescription drugs – big pharma still controls the price and we can’t use other countries to get them cheaper. WTF?!?

  26. mw Says:

    “you’re pissed at everyone” – nb

    Well… I like dogs.

  27. Nick Benjamin Says:

    mw,

    I’m a cat person, so we’ve found another thing to disagree on.

  28. Basta Says:

    Yeah, I know, right? On my side, it’s hard to argue against “reform” while somebody stands next to me drowning me out with hyperbole and buzzwords. The issues I have with government-run health care isn’t about death panels or increased rationing or the like. It’s simply that I really don’t like the idea of the government controlling anything that important. Seriously, what do they do well that private enterprise doesn’t? Public education–bah. USPS, by Barack Obama’s own recent admission–bah. Ever been to the DMV? You know what I’m talking about. Even the military hires private help. If you let the government catch hold of this, our deficit will drop at an even higher rate. We’ll be in the same position as Britain. Regardless of whether or not the NHS is really GOOD, Britain’s deficit is monstrous. We will be the same way. As alluring as it sounds, free health care isn’t free.

  29. Nick Benjamin Says:

    Dude,

    The British deficit is lower than ours as percent of GDP. Canada has a surplus. This is largely due to the fact both spend less per capita on health care than we do.

    The VA does better than private systems in every measure I have ever seen. They’re cheaper, faster, and have healthier patients. Every damn time. And, you know, combat veterans are not supposed to be easy to treat.

    Please don’t talk about the private contractors the military hires. Those guys are so great that several American troops in Iraq have been electrocuted to death while taking a shower.

  30. angelic22 Says:

    My favourite hawking quote:

    “Eternity is a very long time, especially near the end”

    His new book is out on the 9th September http://stephenhawkingnewbook.com

  31. Donklephant » Blog Archive » The DR – now with commentary! Says:

    […] here, here, and […]

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