Speaking at the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce Jan. 10, Gov. Peter Shumlin made his administration's health care reform policy crystal clear: Vermont will be the first in the nation to aggressively pursue the central problem of controlling costs.
Well, good. No doubt our huge health care system can be run more efficiently. If Vermont's manufacturers faced with extinction can meet "lean manufacturing" goals that would have been unthinkable just 10 years ago, no doubt our health care industry can do so as well.
But cost control enthusiasm must not be allowed to harm vulnerable Vermonters. I am speaking of a proposed bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide. Say what you want about the lethal drug "choice," it's definitely cheap. A few dollars of pills can make unnecessary tens of thousands of dollars of expensive end of life care. And therein lies a great temptation and danger. According to a June, 2008 ABC evening news article, at least two patients covered by Oregon's state health insurance program were denied a doctor-approved life-extending treatment for cancer, but were still "eligible" for a physician-assisted suicide prescription. That awful scenario was possible in Oregon because they have legalized physician-assisted suicide.
During the coming, decade-long effort to control health care costs, no one should be pressured into taking cheap, lethal drugs. People will die unnecessarily and an essential trust in the system will be undermined.
Anonymous health insurance bureaucrats must not be given the de facto power of life and death.