Prior to the health care reform vote, the Congressional Republicans tried to terrify the country into believing that the bill would be the beginning of rationed care, throwing about the terms “Death Panel” and claiming Democrats wanted to kill Grandma.
Now, the same thing is happening in response the the Ryan plan to end Medicaid and Medicare as we know it. And the accusations are coming from the Secretary of Health and Human Services herself.
Via the Washington Post:
“I think there’s no question if you take a snapshot, people will run out of money, very quickly [under the GOP Medicare plan if you have cancer]. And if you run out of the government voucher and then you run out of your own money, you’re really left to scrape together charity care, go without care, die sooner. There aren’t really a lot of options.”
– Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, May 5, 2011
Secretary Sebelius made this eye-popping statement Thursday while testifying on Capitol Hill, after Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J) asked her a question about the Medicare plan advanced by House Republicans: “What might that cost shift and lack of guaranteed benefit mean for an oncology patient, a person with cancer? Give me an example, what it might do there.”
Her answer was strong stuff, suggesting that the GOP plan could cause people to “die sooner” if they had cancer and ran out of money.
Fear mongering is always bad, regardless of which side is pushing the propaganda. The WaPo breaks down Sebelius’s statement, calling it “three Pinocchios,” a fairly large scale exaggeration. But the publication does admit that under the Ryan plan, cancer patients would be responsible for a larger amount of their own care costs, especially when it comes to buying the expensive medications needed to stop the progress of the disease.
The GOP argues that more coverage help and financial assistance will be provided to those who are sickest and poorest, by taking unneeded funds from healthier patients. But if Medicare and Medicaid are meant for those who are higher risk and sicker — how many healthy patients are there to take funds from?
We’re about to find out. Florida just passed its own Medicaid reform bill, one that will move the patients onto HMOs and managed care plans. The first change to the plans? $100 copays for using an emergency room for an non-emergency purpose. Proponents of the copay say it will stop patients from misusing high cost emergency rooms. But detractors state there isn’t another option for those patients, especially when their care providers pull out of the programs.
Will privatized Medicaid and Medicare kill cancer patients more quickly, like Sebelius warned? Many will be watching to see how this microcosm of the Ryan plan works out. In the meantime, for cancer patients, here’s hoping everyone has affordable insurance.