Thursday, August 06, 2009

A simple plan

So here is a story from KVAL in Eugene, OR, about a woman with terminal cancer. Her doctor "offered hope" (for more time, as I understand it, not for remission or recovery) in the form of an expensive chemo drug. The Oregon Health Plan denied her request for that drug, but offered "comfort care" including - of course, it being Oregon - assisted suicide.


Saha [the spokesperson for the plan] said state health officials do not consider whether it is cheaper for someone in the health plan to die than live. However, he admitted they must consider the state's limited dollars when dealing with a case such as Wagner's.

"If we invest thousands and thousands of dollars in one person's days to weeks, we are taking away those dollars from someone," Saha said.

Uh-huh. If they don't consider whether life or death is cheaper, on what basis are they making this decision? They prefer death, or opiate haze, to an extension of life? Saha says that if the woman believes they're only willing to cover her suicide, she's misinterpreted their letter. Clearly. The article says right there that they'll offer "comfort care" (that would be the pain pills Pres. Obama has gotten into such hot water over) too. But that spokesperson can't claim that the plan doesn't cover assisted suicide. And the woman appealed the plan's denial of the drug twice, losing both times, so obviously if they somehow misspoke, they did it three times.

(The drug company that makes the drug is offering it to her for free now. God bless 'em. I assume they've done so with some conditions, such as her allowing them to collect data on the progress of her cancer. It seems to me that they have every right to ask such a thing in return for the charity they're offering, and that she has every incentive to give it. I know I would...)

My question: How can anyone who knows about Oregon, who knows about Massachusetts, who knows about Canada, who knows about Great Britain, believe that this little story isn't a vision of the United States' future, if government becomes primary health care provider? Why is it that those on the Left insist that history doesn't repeat itself? It isn't as if what they're proposing hasn't been tried.

Oh, except in this one respect: if the US goes the way of Canada and Great Britain, there'll be no more US health system to rely on: no more hideously-expensive-to-develop US drugs that Canada can buy at a deep discount and crow about offering cheaply; no more new surgical techniques invented and tested in US operating rooms that can eventually be learned by foreign doctors; no more life extension research that can maintain a Stephen Hawking or a Robert Heinlein far beyond their "natural" span; no more super-NICU techniques that can sustain a baby weighing less than a pound, giving that baby a shot at not just life but normal life (and raising US infant mortality rates in the process, because a one-pound baby only has a shot at life, even here).

There is rationing in health care now, just as there's rationing in, say, real estate (in good times!) and hybrid cars (when gasoline gets expensive): demand exceeds supply. But who decides? What's better, a bureaucratic process far removed from the beneficiary, a bureaucratic process closer to the beneficiary (that would be private insurance, wherein individuals can decide how "Cadillac" a plan they want to pay for), a lottery? If Oregon objects to spending $4000 to add a month to this woman's life, but is happy enough to cover her $100 death (a prospect that makes me shudder even as the economics make plenty o' sense), what on earth gives anyone the idea that the Federal government won't offer the same care, or lack thereof?

Please, Texas, it's in your Constitution: pull the secession trigger before this horrible thing takes effect. I have two anchor children...