Thursday, November 18, 2010
Arizona's Death Panel
According to NPR, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) authorized donor transplants for 98 low-income patients but that was before the state legislature, facing a $1.5 billion budget deficit, decided to cut out all state-funded lung transplants, some bone-marrow transplants and some heart transplants. The state says the cuts will save about $4.5 million this year.
Francisco Felix, a Hepatitis C patient, had been waiting for a life-saving liver transplant
"Without funding from the state, Felix needed to raise $200,000 to pay for the liver transplant. The liver was directly donated to Felix from a family friend who died suddenly Monday. But because Felix's family could not raise enough to cover the cost of the operation, the liver went to another patient.
Similarly, Randy Shepherd, who ran a plumbing business, told NPR that his heart muscle is weakening as a result of the rheumatic fever he had when he was much younger. AHCCCS was the only heath insurance he could get because of that pre-existing condition.
The agency approved Shepherd for a heart transplant more than a year ago, then recently reversed its decision. But he told NPR he's stopped being bitter because the agency paid for a pacemaker to serve as a temporary fix until he gets a new heart. Next year, he becomes eligible for Medicare and will seek help from the federal agency."
Using poor or misleading data, AHCCCS's report to the legislature says "only 15 percent of those waiting will actually ever find transplant matches." But, as NPR points out, "no one knows ahead of time which 15 percent that will be."
"The state's data also show the procedures have poor outcomes and that most patients die after the transplants. But critics say the data was cherry-picked, as it included only patients enrolled in AHCCCS and only for a two-year period.
A coalition of Arizona transplant centers, including well-known programs at the University of Arizona and the Mayo Clinic, recently gave the state data for a broader patient group and a longer time period. It showed much better outcomes."
State Rep. John Kavanagh, a Democrat, promises to hold hearings when the legislature convenes in January. He says the state can find somewhere else to cut the money.
Truthout says none of this had to happen.
"This didn't have to happen. In a special election in January 2010, the people of Oregon (a state with a comparable average income as Arizona) decided to raise taxes on the wealthy and on corporations instead of cutting essential services. Despite an all-out effort to convince voters that taxing the rich would hurt the poor, voters approved Measures 66 and 67, raising tax rates on those most able to pay and allocating the money to preserve state services.
. . . . Instead of taxing the people who caused and profited from this situation, our political system has bailed them out, buried their crimes and passed the costs onto the most vulnerable - people like the 98 poor men and women who were told their lives might be saved, only to have that hope taken away.
In Arizona, 98 families may be forced to watch a loved one die slowly. The rest of us must take a moment to accept responsibility for allowing this to happen and ask ourselves what we can do about it. Instead of hoping for a good-hearted philanthropist to break off some crumbs to pay for these surgeries, we must reclaim our power to force society and government to take care of the least among us."
A commentator says it best:
They can spend billions on wars, send to other countries, bail-out capitalists and Wall Street, even raise the deficit with tax cuts to those that have benefited from the bail-out, yet the "death panel" from Arizona condemned humans beings to death simply so save money.. no amount of words can justify what Arizona did or will do, NONE!!