The Obamacare rationing is beginning

Heather Hunter | Contributor

If it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny. The brain trust at the Consumers Union doesn’t seem to be able to see the consequences of their actions.

The Consumers Union was a cheerleader for Obamacare. They promised it would reduce the cost of health care. Back in 2009, the Consumers Union endorsed Obamacare. Jim Guest, the president of the Consumers Union, proclaimed that “health care is a consumer crisis with its crippling costs, its unreliability, and lack of access for too many Americans. By creating a more secure, affordable health care system, the House bill goes a long way towards solving the crisis.”

But something has gone predictably wrong. The group got what it wanted, but instead of prices dropping, they are skyrocketing. In a recent email to supporters, the group said it was “stunned” that Blue Cross in California was upping its rates for the third time in six months — a 59% increase for some customers.

The group shouldn’t be “stunned” by this. California is typical of what is going on across the country. Insurance rates are going up because of Obamacare. And things will only get worse.

Government mandates, regulations, and red tape are just the tip of the Obamacare iceberg. The Heritage Foundation laid out 12 good reasons why premiums would rise if Obamacare became law. They are being proven right.

So how will government try to “reduce the cost of health care?” They just have one tool left in their arsenal — rationing — and it is happening before our very eyes.

The government isn’t going to say, “We won’t treat you for condition X” — the public outcry would be too great. No, they have learned from other nations that have government health care that that would mean disaster. What they do is much more subtle — they simply limit options in the hope that patients won’t realize that care is being rationed.

For most diseases, there are several options for treatment and the treatment regimen is based upon the individual patient’s history and advice from their doctor. If the government refuses to pay for a particular type of treatment, that arrow is simply removed from the doctor’s quiver and the patient will most likely never be made aware of it.

However, sometimes there is a period between the government deciding a treatment is no longer cost effective and when some patients are receiving it. This is the rare time when people can see how their options are being limited and actually stand a chance to do something about it.

Currently many end-stage breast cancer patients are finding themselves in that terrifying overlap area.

Breast cancer patients who rely on a drug called Avastin will soon have their Medicare and potentially their insurance coverage yanked for the drug thanks to an FDA campaign to “de-label” the drug. It’s not about safety or effectiveness; it about cost. The drug, which can cost $80,000 a year, will still be available if you are rich enough to afford it. Everyone else will be out of luck. In most cases, doctors simply won’t make patients aware of it because it’s not covered by their health insurance. Doctors tend to only work from the available options that a patient’s insurance covers — to bring up others would be cruel and offer an unattainable false hope.

Congress must not allow that to happen. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has spoken out against the FDA’s action. Others in the House, including the House Energy and Commerce chairman, have raised questions as well. But questions are only the first step. What we need now is action, and quick.

The maker of the drug has petitioned the FDA for a hearing on their decision. It is unclear whether the FDA will listen to the pleas of cancer patients. But one thing is clear, late-stage cancer patients cannot waste time on bureaucratic wrangling. They need action and are looking for Congress to set things right. The clock is ticking.

Should we hold our breath waiting for a press release from the Consumers Union denouncing the FDA’s decision denying access to the drug? No. Our elected representatives should act now and tell bureaucrats to stay out of the examination room, to leave doctors with as many options as possible so they can make the best decisions they can for their patients.

Today it’s breast cancer treatment, but while it starts there, it most certainly will not end there. Obamacare costs are going to do nothing but skyrocket, and the prospects for repeal are slim while President Obama is still in the White House and Democrats control the Senate, so more under-the-radar measures will have to be taken to keep costs down and stop this unpopular law from becoming even more unpopular. Your life may not be touched by breast cancer, but sooner or later the government will limit options for something that impacts someone you do care about, or you. A precedent will be set here, one way or the other. Either we stand up now for what is right, or we all lose.

Heather Smith is a writer based in Washington, D.C.

Tags : avastin cancer david vitter fda food and drug administration health care health economics medicine pharmacology
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