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Health care scare stories (08/19/2009)
By John Edstrom

Congressmen back at home this summer are finding that the distance between Washington D.C. and their districts is often greater than the mileage, particularly where health care “reform” is concerned, with many sub- ject to anger and shouting from constituents at Town Hall meetings. Democratic leaders and friendly media have charged that these protests have somehow been orchestrated by the right wing, and fueled by scare stories and lies about proposed health care legislation. (Actually you can always tell when a protest is put on by stooges according to the crudeness of the slogans they chant – “Hey, hey, ho, ho, (insert here) has gotta go!”)

Sarah Palin and her warnings of “death panels” that will decide the fate of the fading elderly by the rationing of medical care, while raising legitimate questions, will surely win this season’s Ann Coulter award for incendiary rhetoric.

But what of the other side, and its attempts to sell a much broader government involvement in (some would say takeover of) health care? Our own congressman, Democrat Tim Walz, after being roughed up at public gatherings, recently held a much safer one in a private home in Rochester, where the guests were by invitation only.

One of them was a lady who told the sad story of her late son (reported in the Rochester Post Bulletin, 8/12/09). Diagnosed as a teenager with Wilson’s Disease, he was supposedly refused insurance for a preexisting condition, and could not afford the $3,000 per month drug regimen. He arrived at a Las Vegas hospital with liver failure and was turned away for being noncompliant (not taking the expensive drug), and because it was a weekend. He later died.

This is a shocking and tragic story, no matter what the details, but some of them need scrutiny if it is to be made a pretext for greater government involvement in American health care. First of all, Wilson’s Disease is a condition in which the body cannot clear excess copper, which in the young man’s case, built up in the liver and caused problems. If he had been diagnosed correctly years ago in his teens he would have been initially treated with either penicillamine or the drug trientine and been on a maintenance therapy of zinc acetate to keep copper from building up in his system again.

However, the mother said that he was supposed to be on penicillamine, but it was too expensive for him at $3,000 per month. Yet here in Winona, the stuff, otherwise known as cuprimine, can be had for $373.46 for a 90-day supply of 250 mg pills.

Furthermore, if a young man presented himself to a hospital emergency room with liver failure, he must be treated, whatever the day of the week, or state of “compliance” he is in. That is federal law.

According to the local doctor I checked with, had he been in Winona, he would have been treated at Winona Health, and if his liver were failing, as seemed the case, put on a waiting list for a transplant, insurance or no. The hospital would have eaten the expense, which of course gets passed on to the patients with means to pay.

That is a problem with the current system, but not that people are turned away from hospitals to stagger off and die, although you hear many such stories happening in countries with socialized medicine.

This is not to doubt the tragedy of what ultimately happened to these people, but it does not make a case for radical changes in our health care system. For Congressman Walz’s office to present it as such, with such few and sketchy details, constitutes the sort of scare story that his party is accusing its opponents of spreading.



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