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The Real Oregon Health-Care Horror Story

Last week, I wrote about Michelle Malkin’s brutal dissection of Nicholas Kristof’s recent column, “Are We Going To Let John Die?”  

Recap: Kristof plaintively claimed that America’s mean, soulless health-care system is killing a man from Oregon because no health-care professionals — as in zip, zero, nada — would treat his neurological disorder.  (Kristof’s solution? Obamacare, natch).  Malkin reported that the subject of the column has not only received some Medicaid coverage, but is currently being treated by an excellent neurologist at Oregon Health Sciences University — debunking Kristof’s entire thesis. 

How long until the esteemed New York Times columnist resorts to Dan Rather’s patented “fake but accurate” defense?  Never mind, that would require him to actually respond to Malkin’s challenges.

Update: Wait a second.  Didn’t the uber-progressive paradise of Oregon implement a fairly comprehensive universal health-care system awhile back?  Shouldn’t John have been covered under that plan?  How might we examine how Oregon’s government-run structure is working out?  Ironically, the New York Times  reported on that very question just last year in an article ominously headlined, “Drawing Lots for Health-Care.”  Behold, government rationing (emphasis mine):

Last month, right after he had the heart attack and then the heart surgery and then started receiving the medical bills that so far have topped $200,000, Melvin Tsosies joined the 91,000 other residents of Oregon who had signed up for a lottery that provides health insurance to people who lack it.

Despite the great hopes of people like Mr. Tsosies, only a few thousand of Oregon’s 600,000 uninsured residents are likely to benefit from the lottery anytime soon. The program has only enough money to pay for about 24,000 people, and at least 17,000 slots are already filled.

“Maybe we can hope that as time goes on,” said Jim Edge, the state Medicaid director, “there will be state money added back to this program and it can grow again.”

The lottery was born out of a consensus among state officials and advocacy groups that small steps can help. As part of the state’s Medicaid program, known as the Oregon Health Plan, the lottery is intended for low-income adults who lack private insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare. Although the plan once served more than 100,000 people, budget cuts in 2004 reduced the number to about 17,000.

It has been more than a decade since the innovative Oregon Health Plan became a forerunner of state health care reform as it pursued universal health coverage. Conceived on a restaurant napkin in the late 1980s, the program had by 1996 reduced the number of the uninsured to about 11 percent of all residents, down from more than 18 percent in 1992. But then, early in this decade, the state endured a wrenching recession.

“Oregon was way ahead of everyone else,” said Charla DeHate, the interim executive director of Ochoco Health Systems. “And then we went broke.”

Interesting.  Oregon’s liberal government — overwhelmed with good intentions and statist instincts — thought it could provide universal coverage for its residents. But after a few years, the system collapsed under the weight of budget woes, forcing the government to set up care-rationing lotteries.  Who could have ever seen that coming? Americans may accept ticket lotteries for sports or concert tickets, but not for health-care.

Mr. Kristof, if you’re truly interested in accurately addressing an Oregon health-care sob story, perhaps you’ll take note of what the state’s failed universal care system wrought for one cancer-stricken woman:

A Springfield woman’s doctor hoped a new chemotherapy drug would help her but the Oregon Health Plan told her the treatment was not approved. Instead, the state would pay for assisted suicide “I’m not ready, I’m not ready to die,” the Springfield woman said.

Tragic, immoral, and infuriating.  Hey, that’s pretty good material for an indignant newspaper column.


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