Franklin Bremmer looked at the death list and saw his mother’s name. His distinguished face turned white. He moaned, “Oh, God, mother! Oh, No. Oh, God, no!”
He had just visited his mother last night. He remembered her sweet voice, her soft, white cheek that he had kissed, the look of worry on her face when she had said he looked tired, his favorite foods she had made for him, waiting on the dining-room table. He adored his mother. He had been taking care of her for five years, and her heart was bad, very bad. She needed a by-pass operation quickly, or she would die. A week ago was her 73rd birthday.”
Franklin Bremmer was head of the Philadelphia Division of the Federal Medicare Rationed-Care Office. He looked down at the monthly list of elderly patients who would be denied life-saving heart surgery because they were too old because they had passed the seventy-year-old cutoff age. He looked at this monthly death list, the part of his job that twisted his stomach every first of the month, and he stared at his mother’s name, Mary Bremmer.
Part of Franklin Bremmer’s job was to determine who would live and who would die. He had to make a “cost-benefit” analysis for each human being on that list. He had to judge if giving that person the operation they desperately needed was “medically inappropriate” based on the cost. The Washington Rationed-Care Board bosses were desperate to cut costs.
Ever since Bernie Sanders was elected President and forced “Medicare for all” socialized-medicine on America, Medicare taxes on young working couples were skyrocketing to pay for the exploding medical care of 50 million baby boomers. There had been tax riots. Congress had been putting enormous pressure on city Medicare bosses to cut costs so they could stop the relentless rise in taxes.
There could be only one end result — rationing. The elderly were first to go under the rationing ax. The bureaucrats made an arbitrary age cut-off for any expensive operation. The horrible rationale in their cost-benefit analysis was that saving the lives of seniors over seventy was not a “benefit” that was worth the “cost” to “society” anymore. They had to make an arbitrary age cutoff, and their statisticians picked seventy years old, no one knows how. Over seventy years old, the numbers “experts” said, Medicare would pay more than the maximum $60,000 to extend life for another year. The statisticians also came up with that $60,000 figure.
His mother, who could enjoy another fifteen years of a healthy life, another fifteen years of walking in the sunshine with him, of making his favorite foods, of working in her flower garden, was now condemned to death by government number-crunchers who made cost-benefit analyses with people’s lives.
He never thought that someone he loved dearly would fall under the ax. He had always put this possibility out of his mind. But a repressed part of him knew this day would come. For thirty years now, the Medicare system had been moving towards collapse. Today was May 15, 2021, and the problem had been building since 1990 when the baby-boomers started to retire by the tens of millions.
The system was collapsing from the weight of 50 million retirees now on Medicare, collapsing from the economic weight of a program costing $800 billion a year, and rising. Retirees were living longer, many into their 80’s, when they had the most severe medical problems. Everyone demanded the best medical care using the latest technology. That was the mythology that the left had brainwashed everyone with for the last fifty years. Everyone had the “right” to the best medical care, regardless of cost, and that medical care should be “free,” paid by Medicare. It was a prescription for disaster.
Since the government paid for everyone’s medical expenses under the new “Medicare-for-all” system, since patients paid only small deductibles, naturally they kept demanding more and more medical services, more tests, free prescription drugs, free hospital care, in a never-ending cycle. There was no limit to the medical care 50 million seniors demanded, since they didn’t have to pay for it. Unlimited demand exploded Medicare costs.
Then, on the supply side, bureaucrats strangled doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and health- insurance companies with hundreds of thousands of regulations, strangling the free market in health care that would have lowered costs. The regulations had sharply reduced the number of practicing doctors and skyrocketed the cost of drugs, health insurance, and hospital stays. Health-care costs ballooned year after year, all caused by the government’s ever-tightening noose around the health-care industry’s neck.
Unlimited demand, and strangled supply. Franklin Bremmer was now facing the inevitable result of a once vibrant free-market health-care system destroyed by “Medicare-for-all” and government regulations. He was facing the inevitable result — rationing. Not enough money left to support the system. Impossible to raise taxes any more without civil revolt. Rationing had finally come full-blown, like the plague, as it had in England and Canada by the 1990s.
And the dreadful results were the same as they were, and still are, in England and Canada— death lists. People waiting for years to get heart operations, cancer treatment, hip replacements. People by the thousands dying on the lists. Then even the death lists didn’t work. Finally, the lists were eliminated and the Medicare rationing departments took over. Bureaucrats like me were hired. Bureaucrats who would ration care, decide who would get the operation they needed and who wouldn’t, who would live or die.
So Franklin Bremmer, Medicare senior bureaucrat, working for the system for over thirty years, now looked down at the piece of paper he was destined to see. He saw the death list with his mother’s name on top.
Franklin Bremmer thought of his mother’s sweet, loving face. He also thought of his duty as chief of the Rationed-Care Medicare Unit. He felt a heavy surge of guilt for having been part of a system that had come to this, that now forced him to kill his own mother and thousands of other mothers on the monthly death lists. Something snapped in Frank Bremmer’s mind, something gave a wrenching twist. He sat in front of his computer for a long time. Then, as in slow motion, he turned on the computer. He punched in his password. He brought up the lists of all Medicare patients in Philadelphia. He saw his mother’s name. He changed her birth-date entry. Mary Bremmer was not born in 1950 any longer. She was born in 1965. Mary Bremmer was now fifty-five years old. He hit the save button. His mother would now have fifteen more years of life. She would now get her heart operation.
Franklin Bremmer then went to his supervisor and resigned his job, the job he had worked at for thirty years. He gave no reason for his resignation. He just walked out of the Medicare building on a bright Spring day and went to visit his mother.