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Final Word: Better health care from Day One influences last days

On Day One of the implementation of the health care exchanges under the Affordable Health Care Act, or, Obamacare, I was in San Francisco as a guest at a board meeting for one of the biggest health care plans in the nation.

Most of the conversations were about the private insurance side, not the health care exchanges, but what I found most fascinating was the cost of health care in America compared with other nations. I spent a lot of time talking to a doctor who was born and raised in India. He came from relative wealth in a poor country, but he said despite his and other families' means, people in his country don't spend so much money at the end of life trying to prolong it.

He told the time he was working in an emergency room on the East Coast. He got a call about an incoming patient in cardiac arrest. The hospital was technologically advanced, so he had a detailed copy of the man's file before the patient arrived. Before the man was wheeled in, this doc knew that the man was 93, in frail health, and had been treated for a decade for a life-threatening illness.

The man was basically nonresponsive upon arrival. Yet, when the doctor reached the man's a son, living in another state, the son said, "Do everything you can to save him. I haven't seen my dad in 10 years."

This is one story, but I have to believe it gets played out more than once in hospitals across the country day after day.

We spend so much money trying to extend that life at the end, instead of making informed decisions ahead of old age or the onset of chronic illness. Almost 30 percent of Medicare's budget goes to care for patients in their last year of life.

Granted, with the advances that have been made in areas such as cancer treatment in the last 10 years, it's possible to cure a lot more people than ever before. But the costs can be astronomically high and the odds of long- term survival are exceedingly slim.

Let's make better decisions for the end of life by making better choices earlier.

About the Author

Karie Dozer is host of Arizona's Noon News.

She has been an on-air personality nearly continually since her college days. She loves radio because it is intelligent, immediate and almost always available.

She is the youngest of nine children from a Midwestern Catholic family where she learned to be heard, fight for a place at the table and find humor in almost everything. She was hired as a news intern while a senior at ASU's Cronkite School, and found that covering human stories like the OJ Simpson white Bronco chase and the 1992-93 Phoenix Suns was too much fun to pass up.

She loved life in the newsroom with all the action and crazy personalities to go with it. She anchored and covered some sports too, until politics dragged her away. She served as press secretary for Arizona's Attorney General Grant Woods for a five-year stint before jumping back to radio on a part-time basis. Three years ago she got back in the biz on a more regular basis as a midday host on what is now KTAR News. She has a passion for the breaking news of the moment, education, local politics, great food, sports and fitness. She has trouble turning down a good argument, a good book or a good glass of wine.

In her spare time she takes care of her boys, (husband Rich, son Jack, and yellow lab Buddy,) and bakes awesome chocolate chip cookies. She enjoys the quality of life the Valley offers her family and the natural beauty of Arizona. Her favorite places are golf courses, her own kitchen, the city of Flagstaff, and wherever her family is.

She considers herself lucky to work with the amazingly talented people of KTAR radio.


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