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Money & Medicine

Money & Medicine examines the waste that pervades our health care system and puts a human face on the medical, ethical and financial challenges of containing runaway health care spending.

As Congress continues its battle over the budget deficit, policy-makers are turning their attention to one of the largest driving forces behind the nation’s debt – government health care spending. The focus of the health care reform debate has shifted in recent years from access to cost, and recent studies suggest that a third of all health care expenditures are unnecessary.

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  • Angela

    Any chance that those of us who are living abroad can view this?

  • Bridget Paley

    At 14:30 the FAMILY are the ones who demand excessive end of life care. THIS needs to be addressed. People demand preserving a body that has no chance of recovery to a functional state. Fantasy hopes in miracles are something that these family members should be held accountable for the financial ramification.

  • Ann

    Recently had a loved one who had CT scan. Nothing mentioned of radiation or long term effect from the exposure. Not one doctor mentioned the risk.

  • Sierra

    The program did not truly address the reasons behind overtreatment. Is it defensive medicine? If so is it done out of fear of lawsuits or drive for profit.

    Also, it seemed to praise doctors a lot and lay most of the blame (at least in the individual stories) on the patients.

  • Jessica Scott, MD JD

    These are very important and clearly conveyed concepts which we all need to understand- consumers of health care, providers or policy makers – as we redesign our system to improve quality and safety while simultaneously reducing cost. Not only can we do this but we must!

  • Ken Pallante

    Thank you! The man who insisted that taxpayers pay over $5 million to keep his mother alive made me sick to my stomach. His mother was a vegetable.

  • Ken Pallante

    The entire episode is online and just above these comments @

  • diadavs

    i have made this dicision for my husband of 35 years. the end is just that THE END!!! the faith i have in God did help me with this dicision. this is HARD VERY HARD!!!

  • James Scott Thornton

    I, too, was upset by the guy who refused to let his mother off life support despite her being essentially dead in any kind of way that many of us consider reasonable (zero cognitive brain activity, zero chance of improvement, etc.) Assuming that most of the people who make these kinds of decisions on their parents’ behalf are doing so out of religious scruples, my friend said no–what is much more common is when the kids are living off the ICU parent’s social security checks and other government subsidies. My doctor friend is a bit on the conservative side, so who knows if this is the case, but I do strongly suspect that if people had to pay for their parents’ heroic ICU care, an awful lot of them would change their minds about what “God wants for mama.” Right now, the beneficiaries of hundreds of dollars per month are ensuring the continuation of these checks at the expense of thousands of dollars a day. Insanity! This gives a new meaning to in loco parentis. One last point. What this excellent documentary doesn’t cover quite so well was something that 60 Minutes did a sensational job of a couple years ago. When terminally ill patients end up in hospital ICUs for the last weeks or months of their lives, it’s open season on their living dead pre-corpses for every practitioner lacking a conscience to get one last whack at the apple before it can no longer be billed. That segment showed a former nurse in her 80s, who well understood the tortures and indignities that the healthcare system metes out on patients at the end of their lives, and who wanted nothing to do with it, was nevertheless subjected to dozens of diagnostic tests, including a PAP SMEAR!, as she was dying from incurable cancer that had spread through every part of her body. A lot of country club memberships courtesy of the ICU.

  • Rae

    I just finished watching “Foodmatters” and “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”. Foodmatters really opened my eyes to the medical and drug conglomerate. I was shocked to find out that cancer research funding only applies to conventional medical methods and EXCLUDES nutritional methods entirely. I think that the expenses of our medical care are so out of control because there is no money to be made in the medical profession if people are healthy. Watch Foodmatters, it will open your eyes,

  • Anonymous

    I think the Affordable Care Act does include some incentives to identify and reward best practices and to identify and eliminate some of the unecessary expenditures including identifying, reducing, and eliminating some of the waste. fraud, and abuse….It seems to me that some of the initial proposals along tthis line were taken out of the ACT by Congress…both Republicans and Democrats..Both house and senate…????

  • Kurt Michael

    Well done, as far as it goes, but two key things contribute to the high cost of healthcare in the U.S. that we fail to acknowledge or address. First, insurance adds about 35 percent to the healthcare bill. I know this because my doctor gives me a 35 percent discount as a cash patient. (I only have major medical). Second, 9 out of 10 visits to a doctor don’t need the services of a $500/hour MD. Kaiser pioneered the use of Nurse Practitioners and Physician’s Assistants decades ago. I would argue we could go one step further with an entry-level diagnostician I call a “Medic.” They could handle most of the routine medical problems and only refer the 10 percent that need higher levels of skill up the medical food chain. Large law firms do this with paralegals. A medic would earn only a half to a third of what a primary care physician costs. It would also solve the serious physician shortage we face. We have too many people who aren’t all that sick wasting the time of MDs.

  • Josh

    My local PBS station covered that in a special months ago. Most doctors are sued at least once in their life and extra diagnostic tests are ordered to be safe to reduce their liability from lawsuits in claims of medical malpractice. So as long as doctors have to fear(sometimes dubious) medical malpractice cases, doctors will order extra tests and this will increase the cost of health care. I don’t see this changing anytime soon, unless medical malpractice cases are decided like they are in England, which I believe is by state appointed boards.