The state of Oregon is rationing healthcare to Medicaid recipients, says Gayle Atteberry, the executive director of Oregon Right to Life, following a trend largely encouraged by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Atteberry recently attended a meeting of the Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC), a committee affiliated with the Oregon Health Authority, and concluded that Oregon’s healthcare system is encouraging the denial of medical care.
During the meeting, a new death-panel type guideline was approved. “Death panel” is a term referring to ObamaCare’s panel of bureaucrats who decide whether or not certain Americans should receive medical care, through deciding which treatments to cover or not.
The guideline virtually summarizes the description of a death panel, stating, “Treatment with intent to prolong survival is not a covered service for patients who have progressive metastatic cancer.”
According to HERC, “In no instance can it be justified to spend $100,000 in public resources to increase an individual’s expected survival by three months when hundreds of thousands of Oregonians are without any form of health insurance.” In effect, the only option for these terminal patients is palliative care, an end-of-life alternative that provides relief from pain, symptoms, and stress of a serious illness. HERC explains:
The new guideline allows payment for curative treatment for nearly all cancer patients. Those patients with very serious, metastatic cancer who have such severe health issues (such as kidney failure or heart failure) that curative chemotherapy would be too toxic for them should not get this type of treatment. Patients who have been given many types of current curative chemotherapy but continue to decline in health and have a very limited ability to care for themselves, should also not get more curative chemotherapy.
The new guideline REQUIRES patients and doctors to have a frank and open discussion about the patient’s goals of care and what can really be expected from various care options, including chemotherapy. This conversation needs to cover the harms and side effects of treatments, and allow the patient to make choices about what treatments he or she wants based on his or her values, in shared decision making with his or her doctor. This type of discussion has been shown in scientific studies to improve cancer patients’ lives and allows these patients to spend more time with their families instead of in hospitals.
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Photo of lung cancer