Friday, December 3, 2010

Death By Budget Cut

Arizona Cuts Financing for Transplant Patients:

Even physicians with decades of experience telling patients that their lives are nearing an end are having difficulty discussing a potentially fatal condition that has arisen in Arizona: Death by budget cut.

Effective at the beginning of October, Arizona stopped financing certain transplant operations under the state’s version of Medicaid. Many doctors say the decision amounts to a death sentence for some low-income patients, who have little chance of survival without transplants and lack the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to pay for them.
Let me interrupt the narrative and cut to the chase for the predictable forthcoming"why don't they just move to another state?" refrain: low-income means no income with which to move.

But get a load of the justifications being put forth by state Medicaid officials and others responsible for the cuts.

State Medicaid officials said they recommended discontinuing some transplants only after assessing the success rates for previous patients. Among the discontinued procedures are lung transplants, liver transplants for hepatitis C patients and some bone marrow and pancreas transplants, which altogether would save the state about $4.5 million a year.

“As an agency, we understand there have been difficult cuts and there will have to be more difficult cuts looking forward,” said Jennifer Carusetta, chief legislative liaison at the state Medicaid agency.

Which is a brain-dead way of saying, "we're using actuarial science to figure out who lives and who dies." If the probability points to you being dead in the short run, we'll go ahead and skimp on the treatment, bank the "cut," and call it a savings. As Jay points out at Montclair, talk about your "death panels."

You would think such "pull yourself up by your bootstraps or die trying" social Darwinism would be absent from an agency responsible for health care of the poor, but Arizona politics being what it is, I guess not.

What was that old Glen Campbell song? "By the time I get to Phoenix, you'll be dead."


Ryan said...

I agree with the point you are making but I would posit that this is an example of why we don't want health care to be run by the government in the first place. Our health care left to the whims and political vulnerabilities of our representatives is a scary concept indeed.

If the government can't even budget to allow the poor to have adequate health care, I doubt they can do so for the rest of the population.

Todd Krohn said...

The premise of your statement, however, is that the government can't be very effective at anything. Obviously all those "government bureaucrats" and red tape seem to disappear when we fight wars, fund the massive military industrial complex, look the other way from Wall Street criminals, and preserve tax cuts for the wealthy (to name but a few).

If the government and politicians WANTED to ensure adequate health care for the poor, they could. But frankly, there's no political capital in helping poor people.