Editor's Note: The new life cycle

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1.24.12 Not too long ago, I was sitting at a dinner table with a friend of my mother’s on her 60th birthday when she announced that she planned to live to 120. Turning 60, she said, was kind of like turning 40 used to be. The life cycle has changed, no doubt about it. People start working later, they have kids later, they retire later, and they live longer.

The role of health care in society has changed too. Hospitals are major economic drivers, and really good hospital systems, like the ones we have here, have become regional anchors for growth and development. That has a lot to do with our aging population, but it also has to do with the way we see medicine. Take two of these and call me in the morning isn’t good enough anymore. The patient has Google and wants choices. The doctor, increasingly, has spent more than a decade arriving at his or her specialty. The conversation between them is increasingly specific and expensive.

In this presidential election year, we’re likely going to be asked to decide where we stand on the health care debate. Personal health is a precondition for well-being and, I believe, an inherent part of our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It doesn’t have to be free, but it has to be affordable. We’ll have to balance the opposing forces of specialization and access. I hope the process isn’t as politicized as it was last time around and that it focuses on the specifics of reforming a Byzantine system to better serve doctors and patients, not billing agents. In the end we’ll still have to choose between the red pill and the blue pill. Placebo or cure?—Giles Morris

Read our health care feature here.

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