Monday, October 05, 2009

And they said we wouldn't end up with 'death panels'

I thought this was an interesting article from the National Post, addressing Canadian health care decisions:

Choosing health
National Post
Published: Monday, October 05, 2009

Opponents of U.S. President Barack Obama's proposed health care reforms have just been handed a powerful talking point by Ontario's government.

Democrats cobbling together the U.S. plan want to include a "public option" -- a taxpayer-funded health-care alternative that would enable Americans to choose between private medical insurance plans or a government-backed system similar to Canada's. Opponents of the public option maintain that Canadian-style health care would entail rationing, caps on care, bureaucratic interference in medical decision-making and even "death panels" deciding when the ill become too expensive to save.

Most Canadians believe this is a gross exaggeration of reality. But then how to characterize Ontario's decision to cut off funding for colorectal cancer patients taking a life-prolonging drug, in order to save $9-million a year?

Andre Marin, the province's plain-speaking ombudsman, said the decision "verges on cruelty." Marin said the "arbitrary" limit on the number of cycles of the drug Avastin that Ontario will fund forces patients to pay out of their own pockets or abandon treatment.

Avastin does not cure cancer, but prolongs life when taken in conjunction with chemotherapy treatment, adding, on average, nine months of survival.

"For patients whose cancer has already metastasized, it stops their tumours from growing and prolongs their lives, at least for a while. It is, without exaggeration, their lifeline," Mr. Marin said.

Ontario Health Minister David Caplan rejected the suggestion that the cap on treatment was a financial decision alone, arguing it was based on clinical evidence. But it's easy to reach the conclusion that the province decided nine extra months of life for a dying patient wasn't worth the money. Which is pretty much the kind of decision a "death panel" would be confronted with.

While this is not labeled a 'death panel,' it is the end result: a government bureaucracy making a decision about what treatments are 'worth' the cost, and deciding life and death issues.

Many people will make the argument that insurance companies do the same thing. But comparing the force of government to a voluntary contract with a private organization is not comparing apples to apples.

Since we pay for our own insurance (yes, despite the fact that we are both healthy and have no medical issues), I examined multiple plans, what they offered, the cost and the limitations and we decided to contract with a particular company. We know the limits of our policy and are making our own arrangements for the costs we are obligated to pay out-of-pocket. We know that, should there be any changes to the terms of our contract, we have a mandated notification time frame and if we do not like it, we can go elsewhere.

In our options, we had different levels of deductibles, different items covered, different restrictions as to hospitals and/or doctors, etc. Interestingly, though we did not want a plan that included well-baby care, that's a mandate in Ohio so despite the fact that we do not have children, we are forced to have that coverage - and we are paying for it, knowing that we'll never utilize it.

Our choices would have been more numerous if we'd been able to purchase 'across state lines,' but that's not something included in H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, though it should be.

If the Democrat plans for 'health reform' take effect, we'll be paying for everyone else's coverage for everything while having government mandate coverage for even more things that we don't need.

And with government paying for everything and everyone, eventually the bureaucrats will realize that there really isn't enough money to cover the costs and they'll start rationing service, services, drugs, treatments, etc... just like the article above indicates.

In the end, the problem with 'health care' in America isn't that people don't have it - they do. No one is ever 'denied' care - it's available. The problem is that not everyone has set aside the money necessary to cover the costs of their treatments, but they want them anyway - even if others have to pay for it.

Two things that would reduce costs - tort reform and competition across state lines - are not part of the plan, even though they'd do more to help Americans than anything in either Senate or House plan would.

SIDE NOTE: I'm just sick and tired of liberals saying that insurance companies are 'bad' and 'evil' because they, in effect, ration care. As I've noted above, there's a difference between a voluntary contract for services and the force of government. But if you listen to the arguments, liberals say that conservatives shouldn't object to a government plan that 'rations' because insurance companies already do. But if we need a government plan so people don't have to suffer the consequences of insurance companies 'doing terrible things to sick people,' how can you then support a the exact same 'terrible things' being done by the government plan you support? Because it's the 'government' it's somehow now okay????

Apparently, the irony/double standard/contradiction - call it what you will - is missed by those who believe government is the solution to every problem.

1 comment:

Mad Jack said...

Here's the dichotomy:

The health insurance companies have a fairly comprehensive list of the qualities they search for in a client. In part, the health insurance company wants people who:

Rarely file an insurance claim
Can afford high insurance premiums
Blindly accept what ever decision the insurance company makes about coverage when a claim is submitted
Show brand loyalty
Truly believe that half a million lawyers at the bottom of Lake Michigan amounts to a toxic hazardous materials spill, but is none the less a good beginning

The people who are insured want the health insurance company to pay up when a claim is filed. They want coverage for everything, start to finish, and they do not want any foolish questions from cold hearted bureaucrats whose job consists of denying insurance claims. They want pre-existing conditions covered in full. They want low to non-existent premiums and a healthy dose of generosity.

Medical personnel want the premiums for malpractice insurance to drop faster than GM stock in the wake of a new labor union strike. If anyone is actually sued for malpractice, they want F. Lee Bailey and Racehorse Haynes flown in to personally defend them.

I've got brand new news for all these folks: None of you are going to get what you want. Not only are your desires contrary to human nature and the free market, but given that no two US Congressmen can agree on just what kind of health care legislation it is that will get them re-elected I think it very likely that all any of us are going to get is more bloviating, higher taxes and worse service.

What the US government could do is try a little regulation and see if that helps. Insurance premiums could be regulated – all types of insurance, not just health care. This would force insurance companies to compete for business with better service. A novel idea when you think about it.

I'll tell you what I really do think very likely, in all seriousness. I think it is extremely likely that President Barak Obama will go down... in history as one of the five most ineffective presidents of the United States.

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