Like all finite goods and services, health care must be rationed. The only real choice we have involves the mechanism by which the rationing is carried out. Thus, the health care reform debate revolves around the following question: What is the most efficient and humane mechanism for rationing  medical services?

It will be no surprise to regular HCBS readers (all three of you) that my answer to that question is “the market.” There are lots of folks, however, who believe the correct response is “the government.” Those people need to read about the plight of Barbara Wagner, as reported by The Oregonian:

After her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that would cost $4,000 a month, the newspaper reported, “Wagner was notified that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn’t cover the treatment, but that it would cover palliative, or comfort, care, including, if she chose, doctor-assisted suicide.”

The doctor says the patient should get this drug, but the bureaucrats who run the Oregon Health Plan have have decided that a death sentence for patients like Wagner is more cost effective than a drug that can’t guarantee “a 5 percent chance of survival after five years.”

In Wagner’s case, administrators of the Oregon Health Plan had to make a difficult call. But that’s what they do every day in performing the tough, thankless job of rationing government-paid health care to the needy.

It really must have been tough for the “adminstrators.” Can’t you just feel their pain? But surely theirs isn’t really a “thankless job.” I’m sure Barabara Wagner was grateful to these dedicated public servants for laying her choices out so succinctly.

And I’m also sure that most Americans would be delighted to have such people setting their health care priorities. I mean, it would be so much more efficient and humane than a market-based system in which mere money drives the process. Right?

[HT James Taranto]

Comments 1

  1. Brian G wrote:

    Please increase your regular reader count to four. I read HCBS everyday but rarely comment. This is absolutely frightening. Government bureaucrats deciding who lives and dies and instead of treating the patient, they “prescribe? suicide. God save us!!

    Posted 01 Aug 2008 at 1:32 pm

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