Patients must be put before profits

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“Don’t leave me here.” These are the words of a dying 91-year-old man named Joseph Andrey, featured in a recent article in The New York Times, who was forced by the American healthcare system to remain in a nursing home, despite the fact that he wished to return home and spend his final days with his books and music.

Andrey and numerous others are forced into nursing homes for their “best interest” in order to remain eligible for Medicare coverage. Andrey could be provided with supervision and home visits from a private hospice company if a doctor verified that he only had six months to live, but, under the current system, he would lose all Medicaid home care.

Are these regulations really in the “best interests” of dying patients? According to The New York Times, the nursing home collected $682.48 a day from Andrey, around five times the cost of private home care. His daughter obtained records that showed the last year of his healthcare cost a hefty sum of over a million dollars.

This is just one million of the $583 billion spent last year on Medicare, a total that comprises 14 percent of the federal budget. Between 1969 and 2012, Medicare spending per person grew at an average of 7.7 percent annually according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The costs of healthcare are skyrocketing in America, and there is no reason why we should be holding 91-year-old patients as prisoners in the system, using American tax dollars to pay their hospital bills and massively profiting the healthcare system.

If it was against Andrey’s will to keep him in a nursing home, why must he be kept against his will using the dollars of taxpayers?

Andrey receives no benefit whatsoever from dying in a hospital bed. His last days would have been spent happier and at one-sixth of the cost to Americans in his own home. In Andrey’s eyes, “living” was spending his final days at home enjoying his favorite books and music. Even if he was physically living, that does not mean that he was living happily while imprisoned in his own body in a nursing home.

People have the right to choose where to die; no one should take this from them. Now more than ever, the United States has forced the elderly to live and die in pain, attached to machines against their will. This is not the result of a system in their best interest. It is the result of a system that, through the lobbying of nursing homes and hospitals, has chosen to favor profit over patient.