Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Old Grey Mare (she ain't what she used to be)

There’s an old hymn that’s based upon this phrase: “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul.”

That’s chilling thought, whether you’re very religious or not.
Even more so in the context of a couple of articles that recently appeared in the national media.

The Associated Press published a piece showing the statistical value of a human life has diminished over the years. This spring, the Environmental Protection Agency, of all groups, calculated the value of a U.S. life at $6.9-million.
That’s about a million dollars less than in 2003.
A million here, a million there…what shall it profit a man, indeed.
Remember, for the EPA’s purposes, the value being reckoned is of a statistical life. Helpful to know if you’re cutting rules and regs that might have an impact on life in these United States, like, for example, something that would allegedly provide “life saving” benefits.

If the bean-counters figure the statistical value of a life, like the Old Grey Mare, ain’t what it used to be, then the need for tighter regulations on things like air pollution just don’t make financial sense.
Hmmm…and they needed an actuarial wizard to discover this?

Interestingly, the statistical value of a human life is not calculated based upon your earning power, or the possible contributions to society you might make, but instead on what you’re willing to pay to avoid risk. The EPA presumes we’re less willing to pay to avoid the unknown, but misses the fact that as we the people become more affluent, the value of a statistical life increases as well.

Meanwhile, columnist Froma Harrop has discovered that our quest for eternal youth—or at lease the ability to live longer--is actually costing the country money. More money, it seems, than would be spent if we were to experience an untimely demise from diseases we’ve been programmed to prevent.

Sounds a little goofy…but, if you don’t keel over from a heart attack in your ‘70’s, you’re more likely to grimly reap a dose of cancer in your ‘80’s. Or need a fresh set of hip joints in your ‘90’s. Juan Ponce De Leon probably never thought about that aspect while searching for the Lost Fountain of Youth.

The Dutch have run a study showing medical expenses for smokers who achieved room temperature at age 77 were cheaper than for non-smokers who clogged around in wooden shoes until they checked out at 84.
So now we’re supposed to apologize for cheating death?

The point is, medical spending does not become more affordable just because you have the genetic ability to live a tenth as long as Methuselah. Harrop quotes University of Virginia Med School Provost Arthur Garson, Jr., who says the best kind of aging is “having early old age as long as possible, and late old age last about 15-minutes.”
Wonder how that would mess with the EPA’s calculations on the value of an American life?

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