Thursday, August 13, 2009

Do we already have "death panels?"

This suggests that they do exist, only they are run by private insurance companies. A simple question: both the insurance companies and the government are interested in controlling costs. Why suppose that the government is more likely to deny end-of-life care than private insurance compaines.

In case anyone might get the wrong idea, let me reiterate that I am posting this to ask a question, not to defend an argument for government-run health care.


The Family said...

Reading the article, it is clear that this article contains a bunch of distortions arranged to attack another side's bunch of distortions. In other words, politics as usual.

Refusing to cover a pre-existing condition is not a "death panel" of the type cited. It is a policy of cherry picking the healthy for coverage because they cost less.

The "death panels" would be committees which would decide that, for persons ALREADY COVERED by an existing policy, certain life preserving measures would be NOT PAID FOR because they were too expensive.

For example, in Europe, and in California with the PRIVATE insurers there, such committees have decided that certain cancer patients are NOT eligible for bone marrow transplants because they are expensive and may not always prolong life. In California, the insurance companies were sued over those decisions, and mostly lost. In Europe, such committees and policies still exist.


1. Such panels exist in the private industry, and would likely also exist under Obama style health care.

2. The courts have protected against some private insurer abuse in many cases, and would, IMO, not be as likely to rule against such policies if enacted by the government.

3. Such panels generally only intervene when there can be genuine doubt that an expensive intervention is consistently worth its cost. This is NOT refusing care for someone just because they are over 90 or have Down syndrome, for example.

4. Both sides are as usual playing up their bit of the truth and distorting the other side's bit of the truth, and neither is really admitting the whole truth. Politics :-(

PersonalFailure said...

The Family is spot on, as far as I can tell. There's no reason to suppose government employees would be all gung ho about killing people.

I will say that it does create perverse motivations when you give people bonuses based on profits, which are caused by not giving out care. It seems unlikely government employees would have that particular perverse motivation, though they may end up with another.

Victor Reppert said...

Robert Prokop, who has been struggling to put a comment here, asked me to post this comment for him.

When my wife was dying of cancer earlier this year, we got extensive, professional councelling about "end of life" issues, all paid for by my health insurance. We were so grateful for the wise, caring, and incredibly helpful information and advice we got during that awful time. This councelling was a vital and integral part of the medical care we were receiving. I am certain that the last weeks would have been far worse, had it not been for the assistance we got from what ignorant fools at the "town meetings" are today labling death Panels. They have no idea what they are talking about (and I hope they never have to learn).


The Family said...

My sympathy to Robert.

One of the many distortions above is the mis-identification by a few politicos of adding a care category (hospice and related counseling) with removing life preserving measures. There is room for both in rational heath care, and both are currently available to a great extent in both private and government plans. I would add that due to the rate of reimbursement, such care is less available (due to fewer therapists agreeing to a low reimbursement rate) under many government care programs.

The devil is in the details, as they say :).