Gongol.com Archives: May 2009
Brian Gongol

May 20, 2009

Health Keeping very young children healthy could save billions later
Researchers at Johns Hopkins conclude that addressing early-childhood mental health, exposure to tobacco smoke, accidental injuries, and obesity could save tens of billions of dollars in the long term. How much it would cost to address these issues up-front, and how likely an effort would succeed, are different questions. But it does highlight the irony of health-care: If we're going to spend public money on health care (as the American public does in colossal volumes through Medicare), it would actually be far better for society if that money were spent on children rather than on adults. A huge number of health issues can be prevented or mitigated with early attention. By the time people are eligible for Medicare, those conditions are oftentimes well past the phase at which they can be changed and have become chronic (heart disease, for instance, isn't the kind of thing that just suddenly manifests itself when one turns 65). But we're content to spend billions of dollars treating chronic conditions later rather than preventing them early on. And children, unlike adults, have neither the financial means nor the judgment to get the right health care on their own. So instead of a system that reduces long-term costs, we've backed ourselves into a corner with a massive and increasingly unaffordable socialized medical system. The incentives are perverse because voters are very good at demanding things for themselves as they grow older and vote more. That's why the Social Security and Medicare system is going broke at a rate that just keeps accelerating, even though smarter alternatives for old-age savings are available.

News Avoiding treatment for cancer by fleeing the country
A 13-year-old Minnesota boy and his mother are missing just days after a judge ordered the parents to pursue chemotherapy and radiation for the child. He has Hodgkin's lymphoma, which can usually be cured in children. But the family claims religious objections to the treatments, which virtually guarantees that the child will die. The essence of the matter is this: Even John Stuart Mill, who was one of the best advocates for personal liberty in history, still believed that society had an obligation to protect the welfare of children. A 13-year-old willing to accept the prospect of almost certain death for his religious faith is not a reasonable person -- not if he's rejecting a lifesaving medical procedure any more than if he's committing a suicide bombing.

Broadcasting Podcast: Ignoring debt doesn't make it go away
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Water News National Academy of Engineering says there's no way to fully protect New Orleans

Iowa Vaudt won't run for governor, but he wants to keep the bully pulpit

Broadcasting Podcast: Being the fastest person alive
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