Thursday, February 19, 2004

Dealing With/To the Elderly.

I know election time is still a way off but I can’t resist this one as I know there’s probably a political party or two that would love to do this if they thought they could get away with it. I refer to that eternal election topic; healthcare.

NZ, as like many western nations, is burdened with an aging population that is placing increasing pressure on health services and superannuation. Around 30 years ago there were 25 taxpayers for every beneficiary. Latest figures put that ratio at around four to one. Scary stuff if you happen to be one of those four taxpayers, and even scarier if you’re the beneficiary as your money tree is beginning to look a little wilted. The scenario is pretty simple as the population gets older it needs more care. The larger this population is the more expensive it becomes. For decades politicians have known about the problem, now it’s on us and they are struggling to come up with a solution.

Well I have one. And what’s more it’ll resolve both health costs and superannuation at the same time … neat eh! I’ll confess the idea isn’t entirely mine. A former US State Governor who delivered a lecture at Canterbury University last year inspires it, to a certain degree. This gentleman (who actually came across as quite a placid and pleasant individual which was bit of a surprise given the concept he was promoting) espoused targeted healthcare as a way of saving money. His philosophy was both simple and stark. Spend your health dollars on the people that will benefit the most. In effect this means no more heart transplants for the over 70s, I mean what’s the point? They’re only going to die soon anyway. Instead spend that money on a hip replacement for a 30 year old. At least he’s got more chance of having a job and contributing back to society if he or she is fully able. Ruthless stuff, in fact I believe it was trialled in a certain central European country during the 1930s and 1940s.

My concept goes a step further. Instead of practicing targeted health care on the over 65s let’s cut it off entirely. In fact why not institute mandatory euthanasia at the age of 65. Pretty soon (in fact immediately!) you’d have hugely reduced health budgets and no money to pay in superannuation meaning there’d be tax cuts and more cash left for the rest of us.

Admittedly it does have a few drawbacks. Christmas would be pretty bad for the grandkids with no Granddad or Grandma to spoil them with lavish gifts. It’d also destroy a potential supply of babysitters meaning parents would be stuck with their offspring for at least 16 years (I maintain you can kick them out at 13 but my significant other disagrees). Mind you the days of adult diapers and the faint odour of urine that’s common to rest homes would also be over too so maybe it balances out.

Now I’ve floated this theory and it’s garnered its fair share of gasps, concerned stares, and the occasional slap. But it’s also got a few knowing nods which I freely admit is a little worrying. I even got a call from someone in political circles who demanded to know how I’d obtained ACT’s health and super policies. That same person also indicated the National Party has policies which follow a similar philosophy only they’re directed at Maori and the unemployed.