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Finneran: Money Well Spent

Friday, May 18, 2018


The pain never left.

It was always there, as excruciating at 2:00 in the morning as it was at 2:00 in the afternoon.

Sleep was hard to find. And, because of the pain, it took real willpower to go upstairs to empty the hamper and then downstairs to the laundry room in the basement. She was only 53 years old but the pain was now etched into her face. I suspect that it affected every decision she made---work activities, family events, vacations, sleep habits, medications, even something as simple as where to park the car. And, at 53, she faced another thirty or more years of nagging ceaseless pain.

She had watched her mother and father limp through a similar challenge. The issue was not so much family DNA and genetics. Rather, it was the simple fact that, over time, the human body wears out.

Her parents’ generation used the all-encompassing word “arthritis” to describe their condition. Truth be told, the last twenty years of their lives were miserable, suffused in pain and frustrated at their limitations. Our 53-year-old friend had better options.

Thank you, American healthcare. Thank you, medical device manufacturers. Thank you, pharma and biotech innovators. You have given our friend thirty additional years of a great quality of life.

A Boston Globe story by Robert Weismann tells the backstory. It’s not about our 53-year-old friend. It’s about all of us, Americans from coast to coast, whose active lifestyles have accelerated the normal aging process for knee and hip joints and whose determination to stay active—running, hiking, skiing, biking---brings them to a decision regarding joint replacement surgery. You dear reader undoubtedly know someone who has had a knee or hip replaced. The numbers tell the story. And, as is often the case, there is a story within the story.

There were 160,000 hip replacements in the year 2000. That number jumped to 370,000 in the year 2014. The increase in knee replacement surgery was even higher, going from 274,000 in 2000 to 680,000 in 2014. That’s over one million joint replacement surgeries in one year. Let’s not forget that joint replacement surgery was just a fantasy, no more than a pioneer’s pipe-dream, two generations ago. Your grandparents, crippled with pain from life’s wear and tear, did not have the option of having a knee or hip replaced. Their remedy was aspirin. Or Jack Daniels. Let’s just say that the aspirin-Jack Daniels’ model left a lot to be desired.

We hear constant complaints about the cost of healthcare. We hear little appreciation for the daily miracles we enjoy. Our 53-year-old friend now walks a lot every day. She does so without the withering pain of the past. She has a young granddaughter and she’ll soon have a grandson. Her days with them will be days of joy. She’ll play with them as they crawl and walk and run. They will know her as an active and fun grandmother rather than as an old woman whose face is pinched with pain, lightened only by the nip of whiskey in her purse.

The Globe story tells us that these procedures cost about forty to fifty thousand dollars a pop. There is no argument that that’s a lot of money. And we could save that money and our healthcare costs by outlawing such procedures. In fact, we could save a lot of money by outlawing all sorts of things, including care for the sick and dying. After all, a dead person costs nothing to insure.

Happily, our moral compass is not so askew. Happily, human life is still valued. Happily, the quality of life remains important. Happily, the roughly 10,000 days of pain-free mobility our friend has gained stacks up pretty nicely against the fifty thousand dollar cost. Let’s call it five bucks a day. You pay a lot more to your local cable company for mind-numbing garbage. Or for your daily coffee and bagel, neither of which will increase your mobility or improve your health.

Consider this fact: Never in human history has anyone enjoyed the quality of healthcare we enjoy today. Miraculous medicines, with more on the horizon. Pain-free mobility into our seventh, eighth, and even ninth decade of life. These are amazing leaps forward in the human condition.

Yes, it’s expensive. And yes, it’s money well spent.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio  


Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017

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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

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Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don't know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

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Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don't know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don't know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don't know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don't know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?

Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

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Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

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Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

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Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

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Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%


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