Human Exceptionalism

Look Before We Leap: If We Are Not Careful, We Could All End Up WIth Rationed Health Care

The Oregon Department of Health is reporting that the recession will push more Oregonians than ever onto the Oregon Health Department’s system of rationed care. From the press release:

The forecast laid out in stark detail how economic factors affect the work we do. Our analysts calculated that the global recession will continue to drive even more Oregonians to seek state benefits in the coming years…The number of Oregonians eligible for health care through the Oregon Health Plan is expected to increase 23 percent to a high of 565,500.

Adding insult to injury will be the tough rationing these aid recipients will face under the only explicit health care rationing regimen in the country.

Oregon lists a total of 680 “lines,” the euphemism for medical conditions. Of these, only the first 503 are now covered. If you have a condition from 504 to 698, you are out of luck. (Here is the “Condition Index” with the prioritized list.) Among those conditions are HIV: That comes in at number 15–meaning HIV patients will never be rationed out (and I don’t want AIDS patients refused treatment just like I don’t want anyone else refused treatment). Why? The AIDS lobby is very powerful politically, and so people with the disease don’t have to worry about being pushed into the 600s.

However, if you are traumatized causing adult “hysterical blindness,” you won’t be covered, since that condition comes in at number 511. Yet, “cancer phobia,” in which minor symptoms are perceived by the patient as cancer, causing high anxiety, is covered at number 475.

Why not cover hysterical blindness but cover cancer phobia?

And of course, assisted suicide is covered under “comfort care” at number 71. But treatment for recurrent cancer unlikely to result in survival for five years is not covered. This led to the compassionate DHS refusing life-extending chemotherapy for Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup, but offering to pay for their assisted suicides. Yes, assisted suicide is number 71 on the DHS rationed list. (Wagner received free chemo eventually from the drug company. She died last year. Stroup’s denial was reversed on appeal after the big public stink. As far as I know, he remains with us–but might not have been but for the adverse publicity his going public aroused.)

If we continue toward universal health care, this is the very kind of rationing policy likely to be put in place for all of us. Such a plan would increase the pressures to legalize assisted suicide as a resource saving measure. And since President Obama seems to be pursuing a government controlled, but private system, it would permit HMOs to make such decisions–backed by a national board that would set the standards of care under the rationed system.

We had better look before we leap.

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