Saturday, April 11, 2009

Health Care Rationing coming Home to the Elderly, Literally

As Republicans talk up America as having the best health care in the world, all the while bashing the other industrialized countries for their universal coverage and supposed government rationing, they seemed to have missed of our own dramatic shift in rationing care. Don't get me wrong, the Democrats have done little to bring the problem out of the shadows, so they're partly to blame as well. NY Times:

Battered by the recession and the deepest and most widespread budget deficits in several decades, a large majority of states are slicing into their social safety nets — often crippling preventive efforts that officials say would save money over time. President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package is helping to alleviate some of the pain … But the money will offset only 40 percent of the losses in state revenues, and programs for vulnerable groups have been cut in at least 34 states, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a private research group in Washington.

Perhaps nowhere have the cuts been more disruptive than in Arizona, where more than 1,000 frail elderly people are struggling without home-care aides to help with bathing, housekeeping and trips to the doctor. Officials acknowledge that some are apt to become sicker or fall, ending up in nursing homes at a far higher cost. Mary Lynn Kasunic, president of the Area Agency on Aging in Phoenix, described the potential consequences. “If you don’t give people a bath a couple times a week, change the linens and make sure they get their medicines, their health will decline much faster,” she said. “They end up in the emergency room in a crisis, and then in a nursing home.” Ohio and other states face large cutbacks in child welfare investigations, which may mean more injured children and more taken into foster care. Despite tax increases, California has ended dental coverage for adults on Medicaid, all but guaranteeing future medical problems.

“There’s no question that we’re getting short-term savings that will result in greater long-term human and financial costs,” said Linda Blessing, interim chief of the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

Some toddlers with debilities like autism and Down syndrome are not getting therapies that can bring lifelong benefits. Winona Conn, 75, who uses a wheelchair because of a paralyzed leg, has been on the waiting list for home aid for a year. In Florida, recent modest cuts in home aid came on top of a growing backlog, while the number of people in need keeps climbing. The Illinois governor’s budget proposal wouldscale back home visits to ill-equipped first-time mothers.

Rationing health care in America is fact. The conservative fear mongering threat of government heath rationing under universal coverage rings empty now, with the private sector dumping the unhealthy into the state systems which are now being forced to ration care.

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