Canceled Policies And Denied Care Are A Feature, Not A Bug, Of ObamaCare

In the Wall Street Journal, Stephen Blackwood tells the heart-wrenching story of how his mother lost her health insurance because of ObamaCare, and now cannot find an insurance plan that covers the medical treatment that is keeping her alive. As the medicine involved has cost her out-of-pocket $14,000 in just a few short months since her insurance was canceled, in the long-term she needs to have an insurance plan that covers her treatment, or she will die.

Blackwood writes,

The news was dumbfounding. This is a woman who had an affordable health plan that covered her condition. Our lawmakers weren’t happy with that because . . . they wanted plans that were affordable and covered her condition. So they gave her a new one. It doesn’t cover her condition and it’s completely unaffordable.

Though I’m no expert on ObamaCare (at 10,000 pages, who could be?), I understand that the intention—or at least the rhetorical justification—of this legislation was to provide coverage for those who didn’t have it. But there is something deeply and incontestably perverse about a law that so distorts and undermines the free activity of individuals that they can no longer buy and sell the goods and services that keep them alive. ObamaCare made my mother’s old plan illegal, and it forced her to buy a new plan that would accelerate her disease and death. She awaits an appeal with her insurer.

Will this injustice be remedied, for her and for millions of others? Or is my mother to die because she can no longer afford the treatment that keeps her alive?

What Blackwood and many others do not realize is that having his mother’s insurance canceled and having her care denied is a feature, not a bug, of ObamaCare.

For years, health-care wonks have been talking about bending down the cost curve of medical treatment. By bending down the cost curve, they are not so much referring to the price individual consumers pay for health care, but to the overall cost of health care in the US. While conservatives have been inclined to suggest free-market reforms, liberals have been inclined towards having more centralized government control of the health-care system, and towards denying expensive treatment. As former Colorado governor Richard Lamm famously said,

Elderly people who are terminally ill have a ”duty to die and get out of the way” instead of trying to prolong their lives by artificial means … People who die without having life artificially extended are similar to ”leaves falling off a tree and forming humus for the other plants to grow up,” the Governor told a meeting of the Colorado Health Lawyers Association at St. Joseph’s Hospital. ”You’ve got a duty to die and get out of the way … Let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life.”

Or, as Nobel laureate Paul Krugman has said numerous times regarding government health-care programs,

[H]ealth care costs will have to be controlled, which will surely require having Medicare and Medicaid decide what they’re willing to pay for—not really death panels, of course, but consideration of medical effectiveness and, at some point, how much we’re willing to spend for extreme care.

When it comes to ObamaCare, effectively this means having what Krugman calls “death panels”:

Then we have the former editor of the New York Times, Bill Keller, writing about a young woman currently undergoing potentially life-saving cancer treatment,

[In Britain], more routinely than in the United States, patients are offered the option of being unplugged from everything except pain killers and allowed to slip peacefully from life. His death seemed to me a humane and honorable alternative to the frantic medical trench warfare that often makes an expensive misery of death in America.

Among doctors here, there is a growing appreciation of palliative care that favors the quality of the remaining life rather than endless “heroic measures” that may or may not prolong life but assure the final days are clamorous, tense and painful. (And they often leave survivors bankrupt.) What Britain and other countries know, and my country is learning, is that every cancer need not be Verdun, a war of attrition waged regardless of the cost or the casualties. It seemed to me, and still does, that there is something enviable about going gently.

In short, Keller was wanting the woman to forgo treatment and die, as it would be cheaper and somehow better this way.

The policy wonks that put together ObamaCare came from exactly the same fetid swamp as these creatures, and have on a few occasions pretty much acknowledged that their goal was not so much to ensure lower health-care prices for individuals, but a lowering of overall health-care costs for the nation. Basically, they are advocating lowering health-care costs by denying expensive treatment.

Let’s then go back to Stephen Blackwood’s mother. She is terminally ill and cannot be cured with medical treatments now available, but she may be able to live almost indefinitely if she receives a treatment that costs $14,000 over a two or three month period. It was not a mistake that her insurance was canceled and this treatment is now being denied to her: It was part of the plan all along.

This is the human price of ObamaCare and liberal health-care policies.

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