Thursday, March 11, 2010

Another awesome success story of government run health care

From HotAir comes the story of a man who would be dead if not for the United States and our still somewhat-free health care system.
Kent Pankow lives in Edmonton, in a province and a country that is trying to either kill him or bankrupt him.

No sense mincing words.

Suffering from brain cancer, Kent Pankow was literally forced to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. for lifesaving surgery — at a cost to family and friends of $106,000 — after the health-care system in Alberta left him hanging in bureaucratic limbo for 16 crucial days, his tumour meanwhile migrating to an unreachable part of the brain, while it dithered over his case file, ultimately deciding he was not surgery worthy.

Now, with the Mayo Clinic having done what the Alberta Cancer Board wouldn’t authorize or even explain, but with the tumour unable to be totally removed, the province will now not fund the expensive drug, Avastin, that the Mayo prescribed to keep him alive and keep the remaining tumour from increasing in size — despite the costs of the drug being totally funded by the province for other forms of cancer.

Kent Pankow, as it turns out, has the right disease but he has it in the wrong place.

Had he lung cancer, breast cancer, or colon cancer, then the cost of the drug — $4,555 per treatment, two times a month — would be totally covered by Alberta’s version of OHIP.
I wonder, in regard to those "death panels" that have been so "thoroughly debunked," what do we make of the Alberta Cancer Board that gets to make decisions about whether or not Kent can even undergo the surgery to remove his tumor? I'm sure that board in Alberta is not at all similar to the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research that was created with funds buried in the porkulus bill.

No, I'm sure that the this comparative effectiveness council, once they review all of the pertinent information will make very reasonable recommendations as to which treatments are cost effective, particularly regarding elderly patients or patients with poor prognoses. And I'm sure that as the government has more and more control over our health care and is required to cut costs, as all health systems with a one-size-fits-all bureaucracy lording over every decision made must do at some point, that they will not seize upon the findings of this comparative effectiveness research council to reject or ban various treatments or drugs. No, that would never happen.

One of the biggest problems with any sort of government run health care is that because everyone is forced to pay, we all start becoming busybodies, concerned with the way other people live their lives and the status of their health. Of course, if one is paying mucho dinero into a government run system, or even just a system in which the government plays a large part via subsidies, exchanges, a public "option," or useless and inefficient mandates and regulations, then one is going to start paying attention to how everyone else behaves.

Is your neighbor eating too much fast food?! Who smokes cigarettes?! Why is your coworker's elderly aunt receiving treatment for her cancer when they've given her only a few months to live anyway?! It pits us all against each other, making us all watchdogs to ensure that our neighbors aren't using up more of the resources than "should be" allotted to them. If you look across the pond at England, the signs of this are already well underway, and it is a creepy sight to behold.

No. I would much rather live in a society that allows people the freedom to live their lives the way they see fit, eating cheeseburgers or smoking if that makes them happy, because I am not forced to be responsible for their health care.

Ed Morrissey provides some very good analysis of Kent's situation, and he comments on the argument that our current health insurance companies may make the same decisions as did the Alberta Cancer Board:
Some will say that the runaround happens in America, too, with private insurers. And they’d be right. However, people in America have the ability to move to different insurers when they get lousy service, and still get treatment in their own country. They don’t have to flee across an international border to get medical attention.
Yes, indeed.

Freedom makes a huge difference.

Just say no to the nanny state.


  1. I agree totally!

  2. Well, your own admission says there are problems with the current healthcare system in America and a very little amount of time spent on google could find dozens of similar anecdotes of how the current system kills people. Since you're out here advancing your agenda, it's not hard to see why you choose to exhaustively describe one anecdote over another, but let's be honest about it: you're picking the anecdotes that support your world view.

    However, as to the issue of healthcare turning us all into calorie-counters for our neighbors, well, that's already happening. The whole insurance system exists to socialize costs. In fact, that's the only purpose of the insurance industry. And it's a good purpose, because if we didn't have anything like it then anybody who got a fatal disease would die if they weren't rich enough to afford treatment.

    A side anecdote: many companies are instituting policies where to receive company insurance one has to exercise, get health education, eat well, etc. Corporate America is already learning that healthy living saves dollars.

    Americans are grossly unhealthy, and this is one of the big reasons our healthcare costs so much. In a system where costs are socialized (i.e. our system, whether pre- or post- healthcare reform), it does behoove us to be healthy, as the cost of unhealthy people on the system is disproportionate. Considering your previous rants against other people taking money from you without earning it, I had thought you would be against your insurance premiums going up because others aren't taking care of themselves.

    It seems like the system of healthcare you really want is paying all expenses out-of-pocket and abandoning insurance or government programs entirely. This would be a completely "fair" and "capitalist" system. People's behaviors would affect only their own costs, and they'd never be forced to pay a nickel for the care of other people. Again, the downside is that the lower and lower-middle classes will end up getting an extremely low standard of care, deaths will skyrocket, and lost productivity from disease and death will end up costing enough to make even the wealthiest people think it wasn't worth it.

    In the end, one can't have everything. We're going to have to make tough decisions with healthcare, because it just isn't cost feasible to treat our bodies like trash and then expect doctors to make us better.

    Oh, and some of us have more faith in government "death panels" rather than the current insurance company "death panels" in our system. Seriously, can we please get beyond the need to vilify to cartoonish levels everything that we don't agree with?

  3. Obama's health care reform has two general aims: a) to reduce waste in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which MUST be done soon to keep these programs running, and b) to extend coverage to the millions of Americans who currently have NO health insurance. I do not for the life of me see how doing a) is going to deprive anyone of their freedom, nor do I see how b) is going to deprive anyone of the benefits of advanced treatments such as Avastin. (Are the uninsured getting Avastin now, let alone any another medical treatment outside of the ER?)

    Critics of Obama's plan always seem either to repeat generalities (government = control = Big Brother) or to point to alleged shortcomings in government backed systems in other countries. But when you look at the specifics of Obama's plan, you see nothing but what is moderate, humane -- and necessary.


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