Health reform should save people, not kill them

By John in Oregon

When we have a limited budget for medical care, who gets that care? For Statists only so much medical care exists in the world. Your gain is my loss. Older people spend a lot more on doctors than younger people. Should the elderly be prevented from spending their money on staying healthy? If you spend your money on health care, does that subtract from the medical care of a younger person? President Obama’s statements and the Democrat health care plan are based on the belief that it does.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel a health policy adviser in the Office of Management and Budget and brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, gives voice that American Health Care is too expensive, misdirects resources and it stinks. The use of services, nurses, technicians, medical tests, and the use of expensive technology must be cut. “The President’s top medical advisers are quite frank about this. Dr. Emanuel has chided Americans for the expense of their ‘being enamored with technology.'”

Dr Peter Singer makes this point directly in his NYT Magazine article Why We Must Ration Health Care. Dr Singer opens his article with;

“You have advanced kidney cancer. It will kill you, probably in the next year or two. A drug called Sutent slows the spread of the cancer and may give you an extra six months, but at a cost of $54,000. Is a few more months worth that much?”

Singer then goes on to make the case that limited health care resources should be directed to more effective treatments for more productive individuals. He states “Health care is a scarce resource, and all scarce resources are rationed in one way or another.”

But is Singer correct? Is heath care scarce or limited? Consider Singer’s scenario with a drug we know more about.

You have advanced breast cancer. It will kill you, probably in the next year or two. A drug called Taxol slows the spread of the cancer and may give you an extra six months, but at a cost of $54,000. Is a few more months worth that much?

In the late 80s and early 90s Taxol was hideously expensive. It was worth 10 to 100 times its own weight in gold. Lets follow a sampling of the headlines through the years.

– Taxol Slows Advanced Breast Cancer
– Taxol Effective For Early Breast Cancer
– Weekly Taxol Best For Followup Breast Cancer Care
– Taxol Benefits HER2-Positive Breast Cancer
– Taxol Investigated As Breast Cancer Preventative

Taxol was initially used for advanced cancer, them became a drug that is used for early and preventative breast cancer treatment. In other words over the years we learned Taxol was effective and when best to use it. During those same years the cost of the drug plummeted. Fewer women experience advanced breast cancer. The drug is now responsible for a large reduction in the social and health care cost of disease.

Will Sutent be the same kind of drug for Kidney and other Cancers? We don’t know yet. It could be, but if we follow Dr. Singers recommendation we will never know because, for Dr. Singer, Sutent is a wasted resource.

In mid 1960s the odds of dying immediately after a heart attack was 30 to 40 percent. In 1975, it was 27 percent. In 1984, it was 19 percent. In 1994, it was about 10 percent. Today, it’s about 6 percent. Many small steps along the way to fight the nations number one killer.

Within the last 6 weeks on PBS a spokesman for the Democrat health care bill highlighted the waste of angiograms for heart patients. Surviving the heart attack was no better with an angiogram than without he said. Access to expensive angiograms should be restricted as a wasted and unnecessary treatment.

Yet last December 6th (2008) an article by Nathan Seppa in Science News reported “People who show up at a hospital with mild heart attack symptoms, but only ambiguous scores on medical tests, might still warrant emergency treatment, according to research presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association.” “¦ “patients who had gotten early catheterization [angeogram with catheter treatment] were 70 percent less likely to have repeat coronary blockage”¦”

That’s a large reduction in future heart attacks. A huge savings of the social and health costs of heart disease.

The common theme in Washington DC is that health care is a zero sum game. Dr. Emanuel, Science advisor John Holdren, Dr Peter Singer, President Obama, and the architects of the health care bill believe your use of the health care system is someone else’s loss. When you consume wealth, someone else has less.

This point of view holds that Sutent and Taxol are an expense. Angeograms, CTs, and MRIs are an expense. The sanitary sewer system, a large contributor to health, is an expense. Indeed the patient and the doctor are an expense. All expense and no benefit.

Jay Leno once joked about the commercial, “Eat all you want… we’ll make more!” But, they stopped making Nacho Cheese Doritos. Now you must buy Nacho CHEESIER Doritos.

In 1798 Thomas Malthus was wrong. Just as those in 2009 who believe that wealth, resources and health care are limited are wrong. New wealth and health care are created by people. Use the health care you need, we can make more.

I will take the new and improved product any day.

Thanks to Rick Moran, James Lewis, and Christopher Chantrill of American Thinker and David Brown of the Washington Post, for background.
— Oregon Tax News