The Nightmare of Rationing in Oregon

A closer look reveals still more examples of absurd prioritization. The state rationing board ranked abortion 41st overall in state-funding priority, meaning the bureaucrats who designed the priority structure in this “public option” program determined that the use of taxpayer funds for abortion is more important (and more medically necessary) than covering injuries to major blood vessels (ranked 86th), surgery to repair injured internal organs (88), a “deep wound to the neck” or open fracture of the larynx or trachea (91), or a ruptured aortic aneurysm (306).

Also of note is the fact that treatments for esophageal, liver, and pancreatic cancers take up priority slots 337 through 339, with treatment for stroke at 340 -- all over 300 places behind obesity (8), depression (9), and asthma (11).

End-of-life care -- both for the elderly and for those with terminal illnesses -- has stolen attention from the state’s rationing program, and with good reason. As part of the Beaver State’s focus on prevention over treatment, and of monetary savings over care, the bureaucrats responsible for Oregon’s rationing regime adopted a policy of comfort over life extension in dealing with both end-of-life scenarios and chronic illnesses.

While coverage for “comfort/palliative care” -- pain medication, wheelchair issues, in-home care, and “services under [the] Oregon Death With Dignity Act,” to name a few listed in the rationing guidelines --  is provided by the government-run public option, the OHSC expressly forbids patients from obtaining treatments that may actually improve their conditions. Under the rationing directive, chronic and presumed-terminal patients are barred from receiving “chemotherapy or surgical interventions with the primary intent to prolong life or alter disease progression” and “medical equipment or supplies which will not benefit the patient for a reasonable length of time.”

What the term “reasonable length of time” actually means is, of course, left entirely up to the bureaucrats counting the change in that year’s budget. This means the definition of the “reasonable length of time” treatments must benefit chronic or elderly patients in order for the state to consider them worthy of use. Further, it is dependent on how much money is left in the public option cookie jar after all enrolled Oregonians have their conditions treated (in order of priority, of course).

The bottom line on Oregon’s end-of-life policy is that the health care -- and, ultimately, length of life -- of Oregonians enrolled in the public option is left entirely up to state bureaucrats.

In other words, this politician-run medicine has fallen victim to … politics. As John Graham of the Pacific Research Institute recently said, “the best way to keep politics out of medical decisions is to keep politicians out of medical decisions.”

Oregonians are finding that out the hardest way possible. Despite the president’s persistent push to remake America’s health care system in Oregon’s image, we as a nation can’t afford to learn the same lesson that Oregon is learning the hard way.