Paying for extras? Then go die

John Taylor: February 27, 20080 Comments

Part of the glib gab about health care reform in the U.S. goes this way: "Every person should be guaranteed a basic level of care (appendix removal, broken arm fixed -- the VW Beatle, Yugo, frugal car, standard-of-care of the moment), and those who can afford more (fanny implants, kidney transplant, stem cell therapy) should be allowed to buy more expensive (Bugatti, Ferrari, Pagani) care."

That philosophy sounds astoundingly sensible and good-hearted given a recent story from London in the New York Times. Seems a woman whose breast cancer had metastasized had been refused treatment with Avastin by the National Health Service, which provides free medical care for everyone. So, the story said, she decided to go outside the system to pay six figures for the drug while still getting the rest of her care free from the  government.

Word got out. The hammer came down. The British government affirmed its vision: rich people can't take advantage of the system over poor folks. If you  pay for that drug, you have to pay for ALL your care.

Of course, this kind of working around the edges has been going on for some time in a system where, the story notes, you can wait five months to see an orthopedic surgeon but can see one PDQ if you pay $250. Waiting lists and access to free drugs and treatments vary widely in the nation.

Long story short, during the bureaucratic intrigues, the woman's cancer spread and her health failed. And the National Health Service deemed she was so sick she could get the once-forbidden drug for free.

"If the drug doesn't have a fair chance because the cancer has advanced so much, then they (the government) should be raked over the coals for it," she told the Times.

Should be one tragic, hellacious eulogy.