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Nataline Sarkisyan and the costs of health care

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Bloggers tend to slow down this close to Christmas, having to do more of the real life things like finish wrapping presents and visiting families, so the story of Nataline Sarkisyan, a 17-year-old from Glendale, California, whose liver transplant was delayed because CIGNA, the family’s health insurance provider, was slow in deciding that they’d cover the procedure, has been somewhat ignored. But Oliver Willis didn’t miss it:

    Who Will Stand Up Against Cigna And Say No More To The Killing Of Americans For Profit?
    By Oliver Willis on December 22, 2007 2:24 AM |


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    I’m hearing something from John Edwards.

    John Edwards tonight cited the case of a 17-year-old California girl who died after her insurance company refused coverage on a liver transplant to save her life as a call to action to change the current system of healthcare in America.

    Nataline Sarkysian died last night at UCLA Medical Center after complications arose from a bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia. Her insurance provider, CIGNA Healthcare, first denied the potentially lifesaving transplant, but relented after a loud public protest and outrage. By that time, though, Sarkysian passed away before the procedure could be performed.

    “Are you telling me that we’re gonna sit at a table and negotiate with those people?” asked a visibly angered Edwards, challenging the health care companies. “We’re gonna take their power away and we’re not gonna have this kind of problem again.”

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    Not that I’m anybody but I’ve asked the Clinton, Obama, and Dodd campaigns if they have any comment on this or plan to make public statements on this issue. I’d like to note that Sen. Dodd has received $5,300 from Cigna (including money from the CEO H. Edward Hanway - Cigna is headquartered in Dodd’s state of Connecticut) and $2,500 has gone to Sen. Obama.

I went to John Edwards campaign website, and looked up his health care proposals, and, just like almost everyoen else’s, they depend on using the government and mandating employers to help people buy private health insurance. So, when Mr Edwards says:

Are you telling me that we’re gonna sit at a table and negotiate with those people? We’re gonna take their power away and we’re not gonna have this kind of problem again,

he’s lying to you!

Mr Edwards has promised:

  • Making insurance affordable by creating new tax credits, expanding Medicaid and SCHIP, reforming insurance laws, and taking innovative steps to contain health care costs.
  • Creating regional “Health Care Markets” to let every American share the bargaining power to purchase an affordable, high-quality health plan, increase choices among insurance plans, and cut costs for businesses offering insurance.

He is saying, in effect, that health insurance will cost less. That means that insurance premiums paid to companies like CIGNA will be lower.

Well, CIGNA has to make a profit to stay in business, and one of the ways that CIGNA, or any health insurance company, does so is through the use of means to reduce payouts, to resist paying for things for which they are not contracturally obligated to pay.

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If you lower premiums (corporate income), and raise costs, you destroy profitability. Mr Edwards would be killing the very industry on which his universal health care coverage plan is based!

And you ought not to be surprised that companies like CIGNA would try to reduce costs; even in the socialized medicine countries, the government run health services are facing mandates to cut costs, via the rationing of health care. In single-payer plan Canada, the average waiting time for a referral from a general practitioner to a specialist is measured in months, and in Saskatchewan Prince Edward Island it’s over half a year; Manitoba had the shortest waiting time, a mere 14.8 weeks — or more than a whole season. Britain’s National health Service has issued orders to drag out appointments for up to eight weeks in some regions.

If you read the actual news story, rather than just Mr Willis’ opinion piece, you’ll note that there are some real medical questions about Miss Sarkysian’s case. She had been battling leukemia for three years, and was already weak, and there were some doctors who thought a liver transplant was not a survivable option. CIGNA reversed its decision, and agreed to pay for the transplant, which it had previously denied, calling in an experimental procedure, after two weeks of pressure, but it was too late; Miss Sarkysian died that evening.

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Editor of Common Sense Political Thought, mostly Republican (but not always), mostly conservative (but again, not always), always interesting.

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