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Monday, January 11, 2016

How self-driving cars might save Medicaid

As a 62-year-old retiree, I recommend everyone retire as soon as possible and enjoy retirement before your health deteriorates too much. As a baby boomer, I know this burdens society, in particular that buster of state budgets called Medicaid. Sure, states put up less than a dollar for every dollar in federal aid they receive, but hospitals and the rest of the health industry have so jacked up the prices of health care -- and lobbied hard to maximize spending -- that money that legislators divert to the health bureaucracy money that should go to roads, schools and prisons.

Ah, socialism.

Retirement is a drain on Medicaid spending. Approximately $1 for every $4 spent by Medicaid goes to long-term care (nursing homes, home health care and the like). Look for that to rise as the median age in the nation rises

West Virginia has the fourth highest median age, at 41.9 (Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are slightly older). West Virginia also has the eighth-highest poverty rate in the nation. That is a double whammy for Medicaid.

In fiscal 2014, West Virginia spent $3.349 billion on Medicaid.

About $1 in $3 went to long-term care, which totaled $1.313 billion.

There is hope. Consider this from Engadget:
If you've ever driven in the snow you know how difficult and dangerous it can be. Which makes Ford's announcement that it's testing fully autonomous cars in this less-than-optimal environment better suited for skiing pretty exciting. The test vehicles use LiDAR and high-resolution 3D mapping to keep to stay on the road when the cameras and other sensors are made useless by the reduced visibility of snow flurries.
The tests will take place in Michigan's Mcity testing facility. The 3D maps used to keep the cars on the road will be created during dry weather in partnership with the University of Michigan's college of engineering.
While reduced visibility due to rain and snow has been a huge hurdle for autonomous driving systems, these environments are when robot drivers could make the biggest difference in terms of safety. Working in conjunction with the vehicle's traction control, drivetrain and braking system, a car that can get through a blizzard, without sliding off the road, would be a welcome addition to anywhere that enjoys winter wonderlands.
The timing is perfect for the development of self-driving cars. Just as baby boomers retire, along will come a vehicle that will chauffeur them. This will allow them to live at home independently a little while longer. Add the development of robots to do chores, and cyber-medical monitoring bracelets, and you could see a slowdown in the explosion in nursing homes, which may ease the budgetary problems of states caused by Medicaid.

Oh, driving may be a little safer as well, especially once the automobile companies figure out how to factor for deer. (West Virginia leads the nation in car-deer collisions, and it is quite an expense repairing the damage by these kamikaze rats with hooves.)

Now then, how is this being done? Capitalism. While the socialists in government are pouring billions into the folly of electric cars, private industry is investing billions in autonomous driving. The profit motive is stronger than the subsidies motive.

Until I buy that 2025 red Mustang convertible with the robot driver, I will continue to adhere to the retiree rules of the road: Do not go out before 9 a.m. and be back before 3 p.m. Stay out of the way of  rush hour traffic for those are the poor souls paying the Social Security you collect each month. To be sure, you earned that check, but be nice anyway.


  1. I used to hit a lot of deer, no matter how slow or defensively I drove. Then I discovered that if you drive 70 mph or faster, they tend to get out of your way. I haven't hit one since. (Knock on wood.) - Elric

  2. Any senior whose long-term care is paid by or eligible for Medicaid will not be wealthy enough to afford a self-driving car. They won't be cheap, nor will the infrastructure needed to facilitate them be cheap. And if someone CAN afford to own such a car, then their Medicaid support should be reduced accordingly. Any senior who is being cared for in a long-term care facility is probably too feeble or too sick to be out in public even as a passenger in one of these new fangled machines.

    We all know you love cars, especially red ones, Don, but this post is a real s...t...r...e...t...c...h.

    1. You would be surprised. Technology over time gets cheap.

    2. Google has been testing self-driving cars in real traffic in Mountain View, CA, for a few years. Turns out they are safer than humanoids. Actually. But boring.

    3. If technology is cheap, why has the cost of health care risen over time? As technology makes more things possible, we expect---no, we demand---to have access to even more of it. Our standards rise, our expectations rise, our demands rise. Individually, the cost of each technological advance drops, but our demand for more technology outstrips the decreasing cost of each technological breakthrough.

      The first car I bought in 1970, a simple Toyota Corona, would be dirt cheap today. However, it's impossible for me today to buy a car with its features and built to the standards of yesteryear. Any car I buy today is loaded with features that increase the total cost even if the cost of any one of them has dropped steadily since it was first introduced. Progress begets progress. I can afford to buy the fancy car equipped with all of the new technology. That same car would likely be beyond the financial reach of most anyone who qualifies for Medicaid.

    4. Technology makes things cheaper everywhere except in medicine. Evidence? Ten years ago a CT scan with a slower machine cost one grand in my hospital, now that it's run by the sooper dooper university health care system it costs seven times as much. And that ten cent IV catheter? 350 bucks.

  3. Healthcare has wicked high administrative fees to satisfy gummint regulations.