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Published: Friday, 7/2/2004

Some very costly 'patches'

ADD higher medical costs to life's age-old verities of death and taxes, Toledo's top hospital executives warned local businessmen recently. Their prognostication must make all of us stop and think.

The executives blamed anticipated higher costs on the population bubble of baby boomers who will put demand pressure on the medical market. It's a fact. Older people need more doctor time and medicine.

Experience shows that after 40 it's patch, patch, patch, and after 60 and 70 the patches get bigger. But where, one wonders, are the economies of scale?

Some of the competitors, who rarely appear together, let alone agree, see a universal government-financed health insurance program in the nation's future, possibly within a decade. Too many people are now uninsured and lack access to affordable health care. Too few employers now pick up post-retirement health-care insurance plans.

Before that switch happens, Mercy Health Partners' Steve Mickus wisely observed, the nation must agree if health care is a right or a privilege.

Most people wind up on the side of right, and why not? Americans should not have to watch friends, family members, and neighbors suffer and die because they can't afford a doctor, an operation, or a drug.

Is it possible that Hillary Clinton's health plan proposal may be a phoenix that rises from the cold ashes of managed care? Not without a fight, for sure. But the developing social reality could well tilt votes in its direction or toward something similar.

It won't be the health care most of us have known over the past 30 or 40 years, but people won't put off necessary doctor visits, as too many do now, because they can't afford to go.

We know much about how bad habits like overeating, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse contribute to illness and shortened lives. If we all pay for one another's health care, we are sure to put pressure on people who don't look after themselves, their cries of liberty infringements notwithstanding.

Isn't that how it should be? Looking out for one another can't be a one-way street.

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