Take Alzheimer's disease. Because of medical advances, more people are living longer, and more will likely contract this slow progressing, eventually fatal disease. According to the Alzheimer's Association (www.alz.org), "Medicare and Medicaid will spend an estimated $140 billion in 2012 on people with Alzheimer's and other dementias." Worse, it says, "Caring for people with Alzheimer's disease will cost all payers -- Medicare, Medicaid, individuals, private insurance and HMOs -- $20 trillion (in today's dollars) over the next 40 years. The overwhelming majority of that will be spending by Medicare and Medicaid."
It would cost far less if we found a cure for Alzheimer's.
The three leading causes of death in America remain what they have been for some time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they are: heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases.
What is needed is political leadership, not unlike John F. Kennedy's vision of putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. If the forces of technology can be marshaled to achieve a major task in space, why can't medical and political forces, working together and without the polarization that divides Washington, find cures for diseases here on Earth? Disease does not discriminate. Democrats and Republicans get sick. Where is the downside to cooperating to find medical cures?
Especially if the Supreme Court overturns part, or all, of Obamacare -- but even if it doesn't -- finding cures to diseases that kill is a worthy objective that will produce dividends for millennia to come and contribute to human happiness. It will also substantially reduce the federal deficit and national debt.
It is rare when an issue has no political negatives attached to it and finding cures for diseases is one of them. Working together might even improve the political health of Washington, which, according to opinion polls, is in critical condition.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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