As the Left keeps up its relentless march towards socialized medicine, one fact frequently gets lost in the debate: Government-run health care often harms the most vulnerable populations that progressives claim they want to help. Legislation recently proposed by several congressmen, led by Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), highlights this problem, and if adopted by Congress, would help to solve it.
During the Obamacare debate a dozen years ago, Democrats claimed that they did not want to have government ration health care resources based on cost. One of the few positive provisions of Obamacare prohibited the new research institute funded by that law from utilizing a quality-adjusted life year (QALY) mechanism when comparing the effectiveness of various drugs and medical treatments.
As the mother of a child with a disability, I know well how many other countries, like Great Britain and Canada, use the QALY metric to restrict access to care that government bureaucrats deem too “costly.” Individuals with disabilities suffer the most from these types of rationing regimes, because the QALY metric values an additional year of life for someone with a disability as “less” than an added year of life for someone in “perfect” health.
Concerns from disability groups, as well as broader outrage over the possibility of health care rationing, compelled Democrats to include the prohibition on QALY usage in Obamacare’s comparative effectiveness research institute. The law also prohibited Medicare from making coverage decisions “in a manner that treats extending the life of an elderly, disabled, or terminally ill individual as of lower value than extending the life of an individual who is younger, non-disabled, or not terminally ill.”
But a decade later, the Left has again begun flirting with government rationing in health care. The drug pricing bill Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Democratic leaders introduced, H.R. 3, would set a maximum price for drugs linked to prices in six other countries, most of which use the QALY metric as a way to restrict access to “costly” drugs.
In September 2019, a coalition of disability groups wrote to Pelosi, rightly noting that the price control provisions of H.R. 3 “effectively import a QALY-based and discriminatory system from abroad. These systems are discriminatory against people with disabilities and do not have a place in the United States health care system.” In response, Democrats added superficial language discussing the disability groups’ concerns, but left in place and unaltered the gist of the legislation — the importation of price controls that discriminate against the most vulnerable in society.
That movement towards a discriminatory health care system makes policies like those in the Wenstrup bill that much more important. Wenstrup’s legislation would extend the prohibition on the use of the QALY rationing metric to all federal health programs, including Medicaid, the Indian Health Service, Veterans Administration, Tricare, and federal employee coverage.
Many Americans might find themselves shocked to discover that currently, many federal programs can deny coverage based on costs in ways that discriminate against the elderly and disabled. The Wenstrup legislation would halt the Left’s move towards federal rationing of health care resources. In so doing, it would not only give peace of mind to individuals with disabilities and those who love them — it would also make an important moral statement that we value and cherish the most vulnerable Americans among us.