Human Exceptionalism

State “Death Panels” a Consequence of Single Payer Medicaid System

I read a piece in the Washington Post by Norm Ornstein last week, in which he thinks he cleverly hoisted conservatives on the death panel petard.  Arizona–as we have discussed–and now Indiana Medicaid, refused treatments (in the latter’s case because, the state claimed, it is experimental).  But Ornstein misses the real message of these treatment refusals.  But I didn’t.

First, I point out that Oregon has had death panels for years. From my The Corner post:

In Oregon, Medicaid has a list of over 700 procedures, and will cover only the number permitted by their budget, usually in the low- to mid-600s. All those procedures on the wrong side of the line are not paid for by Medicaid. The point of Oregon’s experiment was to expand coverage at the expense of cutting off the sickest people. For example, double organ transplants have been refused. That hasn’t worked, but the state has kept its rationing scheme anyway. As a consequence, many poor Oregonians have, over the years, been denied potentially life-extending treatments. In 2008, two late-stage cancer patients were denied chemotherapy that could have extended their lives by Medicaid — but were offered payment for their assisted suicides!

I then tie the knot:

What is the common thread that connects the death panels in these three states? Medicaid is a single-payer system in which budgets are limited. When the money runs out, people’s options shrink. See also, the U.K.’s NHS and, increasingly, Canada’s national health-care system, in which life-extending chemotherapy has also been restricted in some places.

Many Obamacare supporters see the ACA is a necessary step to the ultimate goal, a federal single-payer system. But those who are attracted to this option should learn from Indiana, Arizona, and Oregon: Government can get away with treatment restrictions that would never be countenanced within a market-based system in which regulators would be on the side of the patients, rather than the government funder. In other words, if you like death panels — as Norm Ornstein points out, although he probably missed his own message — single payer is the way to get them.

This all seems pretty undeniable to me.

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