Monday, March 26, 2012

Organ Transplants and Death Panels

[Welcome USA Today readers!]

Did taxpayers (through Medicare) pay for Dick Cheney's heart transplant? How much does a heart transplant cost? Should anyone, other than the patient and doctor, decide who is entitled to an organ transplant?

Heart transplants cost anywhere from $600,000 to $1,000,000. Most heart transplant patients are between the ages of 50 and 64 and the average wait time is 9 months.

Dick Cheney was 71 and was on the transplant list for 20 months.

Did Medicare pay for Cheney's transplant?

We have no idea. Using the Medicare organ transplant criteria it is unlikely, but not impossible, that Mr. Cheney paid out of pocket for some, if not all, of the cost of his surgery.

Obamacrap requires the establishment of an Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), termed "death panels" by those who oppose too much government intrusion in our lives. Once established, this 15 member panel of individuals appointed by the President and then subject to Senate confirmation.

This raises a question. Should 15 individuals, appointed by political process, have this much authority over the level of treatment that is covered by Medicare? The panel (as currently conceived) will make general recommendations, not preside over individual cases and determine who lives and who dies.

As one Bioethicist has noted, "The timing of Cheney’s transplant is ethically ironic given that the battle over extending health insurance to all Americans reaches the Supreme Court this week.

If the President’s health reform bill is deemed unconstitutional, those who are wealthy or who can easily raise money will continue to have greater access to heart, liver and other forms of transplantation than the uninsured and underinsured."

If/when the IPAB becomes reality does anything really change with regard to access to expensive medical care?

We don't know for sure, but the role of the IPAB is to limit coverage and payment for expensive medical treatment. Chances are good that when it comes to medical care, the gap between rich and poor will widen even further.

Even in countries where the government controls payment for medical care the standard of care for the wealthy is not limited by government rules. This begs the question, will Obamacare level the playing field with regard to medical care or create an even bigger chasm between rich and poor?

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