By now I think most of us have seen the Facebook note Sarah Palin wrote last week about “Death Panels”. Healthcare Economist has a rational post discussing both sides of the issue, and makes the point that regardless of the facts, using words like “death panel” will only stir up fear and tensions, and isn’t going to actually get us any closer to fixing what ails our health care system.
One thing that jumped out at me regarding Palin’s note is the sentence where she writes about how evil the system would be if her baby with Down Syndrome were to have to stand in front of a ‘death panel’ so that bureaucrats can decide if he’s worthy of health care. I find it interesting that in most states – including Colorado – an applicant with Down Syndrome will be declined by most individual health insurance carriers. This isn’t based on a “subjective judgment of their level of productivity”, as Palin described, but rather a projected cost analysis. Down Syndrome is one of many health conditions that simply causes a health insurance company to lose money. A baby born to an insured parent can be added to the parent’s policy without underwriting, regardless of medical conditions. But trying to apply for a new individual policy for a person with Down Syndrome would be challenging.
As long as Palin’s son remains covered by a group health insurance policy, or by a state-sponsored policy, he’ll have access to health care. But in most parts of the United States, his prospects in the individual health insurance market would be limited. In Colorado, applicants who are unable to qualify for individual health insurance have access to Cover Colorado, a state-run high risk pool. But there are several states that don’t have high risk pools. In those states, an applicant without access to group health insurance, and who is unable to qualify for individual health insurance, would truly have nowhere to turn, and no access to health care. I wonder if Sarah Palin thinks that is evil?
There are definitely two sides to the health care debate, and plenty of misconceptions. Achieving genuine access to health care for all Americans is vitally important. But so are the financial implications – both on a personal and national level – of any health care reform bill. To discredit either side flippantly is disingenuous, but so is using terms like “death panel” to incite fear and anger instead of rational discourse.
The Healthcare Economist and Managed Care Matters articles were part of this week’s Health Wonk Review, hosted by David Williams at Health Business Blog.