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In Washington’s Health Reform Poker, Patients Find Themselves in the Discard Pile

While bureaucrats and lobbyists in Washington are busy “fixing” American health care, patients are being left behind-left to hope that the benefits offered will include their own disease or treatment.

“I think the whole system should be more national, and the benefits have to be more national,” Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) told reporters. The question is: which benefits?

Coverage mandates-legal requirements that insurance must cover certain conditions-are controversial. The pure free-market position is to oppose all mandates and count on employers and individuals who buy health insurance to make an informed choice about the type of plan they would prefer. The far-left position includes a huge list of mandates to force insurance companies not to leave anything out, resulting in skyrocketing costs for everyone, because there is no longer the option of a no-frills, inexpensive plan.

Like Virginia, most states fall somewhere in the middle, with a modest number of coverage mandates that balance cost with assuring some level of coverage. While a national mandate for coverage of a specific disease or treatment can exist, coverage for most conditions varies by states and plans. Under the nationalized system envisioned by Congress, there would be one set of mandates for the whole country, and eventually there could be only one health insurance plan-the one run by Washington.

Should this happen, politicians will have the power to select what should be covered. Here’s why that’s a problem.

Autism affects 1 in 150 children today. With the right care, many of the children will have a bright future. Autism can be an expensive condition to treat. Many families receive some form of assistance for a portion of the care.

Who will decide if autism will make the cut? If we use a ‘majority’ standard, then autism coverage will be eliminated to some degree for thousands of American families. Other families, like those in Virginia, will have little hope of ever seeing coverage extended to them.

But our children are not the only ones for whom we have to fear.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia for those over the age of 65. People afflicted live half as long, on average, as people the same age without the disease. Treatment includes extensive home health care, which can become a critical part of helping people with Alzheimer’s live their lives to the fullest.

When Washington is done carving up health care, will home care be slashed?

Senator Baucus said on the Senate floor, “health care reform means controlling costs.” Under a “national benefits” system, what are the chances that expensive services will be included?

Unfortunately, there are so many bills, it is virtually impossible to say. Additionally, because the Democratic leadership is foolishly rushing health care reform through the legislative process, most of our elected officials have not even read the bills under consideration.

In extolling the virtues of his Senior Navigation and Planning Act, a bill he contends “will strengthen the quality and availability of counseling, support services, and care management for patients and families coping with life-limiting illnesses,” Sen. Mark Warner said, “We leave it to families to resolve these extraordinarily difficult decisions with little guidance,” Warner said. “Other industrialized nations have dealt with the end-of-life issue. It’s time we did as well.”  Virginians want to do all that they can to help a loved one in need; should government be dictating to them how far they can go?

So far, Senator Jim Webb has remained on the sidelines of the health reform debate. He advocates reform but has criticized the Obama administration for not offering a clear plan to Congress. “Our nation’s continued economic recovery would be advanced by meaningful health care reform,” Webb states on his website, “At the same time, such reform must emphatically be reasonable in scope, cost, and impact.”

There is a better alternative to overhauling our nation’s health care system–one that should be pursued by Congress but that could also be enacted by the General Assembly if Congress fails to act: put patients in charge by letting them buy insurance from out of state. That would immediately give most families 50 times the choices in selecting a health insurance plan that makes sense for them.

Patients, not Washington, would decide which set of coverage mandates works for them.  That’s what real health care reform should be about: more choices.
The power brokers are busy meeting behind closed doors.  Each group is studying the cards they have to play.  The stakes are huge. We and our loved ones are the cards.  We must not let them dump those of us with autism, Alzheimer’s, or any other disease, in the discard pile.

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