America passes national health care: a simple hypothetical

The liberal dream happens and we pass UHC. Here is a simple hypothetical:

A 100 year old woman needs an expensive (operation, medical device, whatever) or else she will die. This is not an experimental thing as it is her doctor’s reasoned opinion, agreed with by most of the medical community, that it will cure her condition and leave her as healthy as a 100 year old woman can be. It will cost the taxpayers X number of dollars (fill in an amount that would cause you to cringe). Do you approve the procedure?

Well, you haven’t established who is in charge of approving those procedures.

In Spain the doctor isn’t even supposed to mention it to the family unless he thinks it will improve the patient’s quality of life/life expectancy; the protocols are preapproved and there is no need to approve a specific procedure for a specific patient unless the case includes something that makes it “out of approved protocol.” The patient being 100 isn’t “out of approved protocol” for any life-saving procedures. Heck, my grandfather is 94 and has been getting colon cancer ambulatory surgery for the last two years, every two-three months.

(There’s an out-of-protocol case in the news right now: a sex-reassignment operation for a teenager who’s been on hormonal treatment for a year already and has approval from her parents and doctor; what makes it out-of-protocol is that sex-reassignment is preapproved for adults but not for minors)

You are on a British NHS style panel, an Obama Death Panel, a local approval board, a legislator; really whatever you want to call it who will decide what happens with the scarce health care resources…

OK, so assuming I am in a group who has to approve individual procedures (which I imagine that in the NHS, as in Spain, doesn’t happen for every case or nobody would ever get treated), and given that the procedure is expected to have a clear and positive impact on the patient’s quality of life and life expectations, I would approve it.

The only “negative” you posit is the patient’s age.

PS: you realize death row inmates get treated, right? There’s been some interesting threads mentioning that, and how it’s much more expensive to treat the liver failure of an inmate than that of a person who doesn’t need 24h guards while at the hospital.

Well, you said X makes me cringe, so… maybe not? How hard do I cringe? You get to pick.

Of course, I could say the exact same thing whether or not we had national health care; I just need to be sitting on the relevant private insurance company board instead.

Well, it’s not a hillion jillion bajillion dollars, but its enough to make you say “Wow, that is a lot of money!” That number would be different for each person making the decision.

Not really, because with private insurance, it is simply:

  1. Is this person a policy holder?
  2. Does the policy cover this procedure?

If, yes then:
3. We have to pay

Well, what I mean is, yes, of course there’s some point at which I’ll say it’s too much money. But without being told the details of what X is and so on, how could I possibly tell if it’s beyond the point I’m comfortable with or not?

Ah, but you see, the panel establishing the policy is equivalent to the panel that establishes the protocols for Spanish SS. In both cases you’re talking about establishing what treatments are applicable when beforehand; the difference is that with Spanish SS, someone who is outside protocol still has a chance, whereas a private insurance company will say “no” as first response even when the procedure is covered (BTDT,GTTS for a $800 difference).

An Obama Death Panel would be a jury determining whether to impose the death penalty after he has been impeached and convicted of a capital crime. Such a group would not have any authority to make judgments over a surgical procedure.

Why is this any different from the woman being on Medicare now?

Not to mention, you could call up an existing health insurance company and make inquiries about how their boards make that kind of decision today.

Heh. Wouldn’t that be nice? In my experience, it’s more like:

  1. Is this person a policy holder?
  2. Does the policy cover this procedure?

If yes then:
3. Can we weasel our way through some loophole that makes it look like we actually don’t cover this procedure?

If no then:

  1. Can we just pretend that we don’t cover it and hope the person doesn’t notice?

If no then:

  1. Fuck! We might actually have to pay for this procedure. Get the legal team on it, stat.
  1. If this person has an individual policy rather than a group policy, let’s go over her medical history with a fine-tooth comb and find something (acne?) that we can use to rescind coverage.

And 7. does this person have documented proof that they followed every required step of preapproval for this procedure?

We have this now with private insurance. How many times have you read about patients being denied coverage and then suing the HMO and getting it.

It doesn’t matter, eventually a court will overide any policy or some famous person will get favoured treatment and the scheme will fall apart.

That said, I’m not against health care reform, but whether you’re for it or against it, that’s what’ll happen

In addition to this excellent point, note that most 100-year-olds would already have government-provided health insurance in the form of Medicare. So I’m sure there are cases where such a procedure was approved for someone of that age, and others where, for whatever reason, it was not.

I find the scenario quite unlikely. Allow me to explain through example.

My grandfather served over 20 years with the Navy before retirement. Him and his wife thus got medical care for life at VA hospitals, AKA free medical care.

When my grandfather was 86 he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. They tried chemo and when he did not respond to it, the doctors basically said, “he’s old, he’s not responding, die peacefully.”

It was free, there was not financial concerns, but quality of life said that experimental surgeries and additional chemo was a poor decision for a very old man. Why would UHC be any different? Is there something in the bill that says that UHC means that all experimental surgeries will automatically happen? I would assume there would still be doctors looking at the situation and saying “We can do this, this or that, but realistically you’re going to die and it’s better to make you comfortable then have you spend your last months cut to pieces”

The question you should be asking is “What’s her current coverage do in that situation?”
The answer will be the same.

You folks have got to get past this conparison with the UK. It’s bogus, intended to misinform and misguide.

The reason why opponents keep citing the UK is because it’s the most diametrically opposite as it’s possible to get from the current US system - the comparison is supposed to shock. But Obama isn’t proposing anything like the UK system.

Until you see past the lie whose purpose is to engender an emotional - and negative - response you’re playing into their hands and not making the most informed decisions you can on this issue.

Don’t read the silly links, just go to IMHO and read the dozens of experiences of UK people who use it and who’s families use it. Some are ex-pat Americans also.

Actually, the UK system sounds pretty good to me. After hearing a lot of people from the UK talk about their experiences with the NHS, and contrasting them with my own experiences with employer-subsidized health insurance in the US, I’m kind of pissed off that Obama’s plan isn’t bringing us more in line with the UK system. However, I agree that commentary suggesting that the current health-care bill is going to give us our own version of the NHS is ridiculous and untrue.