HOW LIBERAL CARE WOULD KILL TED KENNEDY
Kennedy: Getting care denied by 'liberal' health regimes.
June 5, 2008 -- IRONICALLY enough, the dangers of the lib eral health-care agenda are being made clear by the care that a liberal icon, Sen. Ted Kennedy, has received since his brain seizure last month.
One day after an MRI detected a tumor, Kennedy was quickly diagnosed with a malignant glioma - a rare and often-fatal form of brain cancer. Less than two weeks later, his tumor was being removed by one of the world's experts in brain cancer at Duke Univeristy Medical Center. He'll follow up with chemo and radiation therapy tailored to the genetic makeup of his cancer to keep the cancer from spreading.
He'll likely take Avastin, a drug that in experiments with brain cancer has extended survival by months. A new cancer vaccine being developed in partnership with Pfizer could extend his life by six years.
Of course, with his wealth and power, Kennedy would get good treatment anywhere. But the same care is available to every American.
Not so - if we make the health "reforms" called for by Kennedy and other liberals.
Filmmaker Michael Moore gives their standard line when he says: "There are problems in all health-care systems, but at least Europeans and Canadians have a health-care system that covers everyone."
Problem is, governments that promise to "cover everyone" always wind up cutting corners simply to save money. People with Kennedy's condition are dying or dead as a result.
Consider Jennifer Bell of Norwich, England. In 2006, the 22-year-old complained of headaches for months - but Britain's National Health Service made her wait a year to see a neurologist.
Then she had to wait more than three months before should could get what the NHS decided was only a "relatively urgent" MRI scan. Three days before the MRI appointment, she died.
Consider, too, the chemo drug Kennedy is receiving: Temodar, the first oral medicine for brain tumors in 25 years.
Temodar has been widely used in this country since the FDA approved it in 2000. But a British health-care rationing agency, the National Institute for Comparative Effectiveness, ruled that, while the drug helps people live longer, it wasn't worth the money - and denied coverage for it.
Barack Obama - and other Democrats - have been pushing a Senate bill to set up a similar US "review board" for Medicare and any future government health-care plan.
After denying this treatment completely for seven years, the NICE (did whoever named it intend the irony?) relented - partly. Even today, only a handful of Brits with brain tumors can get Temodar.
And if you want to pay for Temodar out of your own pocket, the British system forces you to pay for all of your cancer care - about $30,000 a month.
Things are no different in Canada, where the wait for an MRI (once you finally get a referral) has grown to 10 weeks. For Canadians relying on their government health care, the average wait time from diagnosis of cancer to surgery is beyond the guideline set by both the US and European societies for surgical oncology.
And HealthCanada, the government system, similar refuses to pay for treatments that are often covered in America.
Chad Curley, a 37-year-old auto worker from Windsor, Ontario, had a brain tumor like Kennedy's but can't have surgery because his is too large to be operable.
His tumor didn't respond to Temodar and the same doctors now treating Sen. Kennedy told him and his wife that the Avastin combination could stop his tumor from growing and add months to his life. But HealthCanada wouldn't pay to use Avastin to treat his tumor.
Chad's family and friends scraped together the $5,000 for the first round of treatment in mid-November; they later saw Chad's left-side paralysis start to subside. But the money ran out - and he died on Feb. 21.
In pushing for government-run health care, liberals are pushing for a system where only the Ted Kennedys of the world can get cutting-edge - and life-saving - care.
Robert M. Goldberg is vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. firstname.lastname@example.org