August 28, 2009

The Oregon Trail, in Healthcare

Justin Katz

There are warnings related to healthcare to observe in the experience of our neighbor to the north, but we should also turn our eyes westward:

You may have seen the headlines last summer, when Barbara Wagner, a 64-year-old Oregon great-grandmother with advanced lung cancer, got an unsigned letter saying that the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) would not pay for a $4,000-a-month chemotherapy drug, but would pay the $50 cost of physician-assisted suicide.

That's because in 1989 Oregon decided to make a comprehensive list of all treatments and diagnoses and rank them by importance to society in preventing disease and doing the most good. ...

... When it first took effect in 1994, Oregon had about 18 percent uninsured. That number dropped to 10 percent but then climbed back up to 17 percent as budget woes in 2004 caused the Oregon legislature to cut back on services and close new enrollment. The latest cuts are in vision care and dental care.

Government-managed healthcare "reform" will not cure the ills that are driving up costs, so it will increasingly have to (1) raise more money via taxes and fees, or (2) decline to pay for procedures. A government body deliberating in the service of number 2 is about the coldest, most dehumanizing methods imaginable.

By contrast, if the critical principle behind reform is freedom, then society can work out the intricacies, leveraging its multiple spheres (e.g., culture, church, and, yes, state). Americans will also have the benefit of whatever additional money they were not taxed for healthcare upfront (whether directly or by pass-alongs from those people and organizations that do shoulder the burden).