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California’s Latest Nightmare: Healthcare ‘Rationing’

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This NPR story about a California healthcare lawsuit shows the horror of the government leading people to depend on promises it cannot keep.

This story is disturbing on many levels.

The typical liberal perspective of NPR is sad and frustrating, but let’s consider the magnitude of human degradation involved.

Bruce Anderson has a severe brain injury. It happened 11 years ago, when he had a heart attack and went without oxygen for several minutes. He was just 55 years old, and has lived in nursing homes ever since.

When his daughter Sara Anderson comes to visit, she asks what he did all day. He replies in a gravelly voice: “Nothing.”

At the nursing home, Sara explains, there were activities for her dad. Bingo was a favorite. And the family could take him on outings. But in the hospital, Anderson can’t simply come and go as he pleases, so he has just been sitting in his bed for the past nine months.

Anderson has spent nine months stuck in a hospital bed because of rules that require him to be treated that way. I spent three days in a hospital bed, carted about like luggage when I had tests, and found it to be mental and emotional torture. Suddenly things across the room are out of your reach and the space outside the door to your room is a foreign country. When I got to rehab and was permitted to use a wheelchair it was a liberating experience.

A person forced to be stuck in bed for nine months is being slowly killed.

This is a story about how the government rations healthcare. Patients like Anderson fit a particular profile.

  • They are on Medicaid.
  • Due to brain injuries or dementia they require more time and energy than the average behaved, docile patient.
  • Because of illness they had to be hospitalized but when they recovered the nursing home refused to take them back.

It is technically illegal to refuse, but California has constructed a bureaucratic labyrinth. The organization that patients appeal to, and that can rule against the nursing home, is not the same organization with the authority to impose penalties on the nursing home. As a result, nursing homes get away with turning away these patients. That is why Anderson has been stuck in bed at the hospital. He got pneumonia and when he got better he was not allowed to go back.

The hospital hasn’t yet found him another nursing home to go to. So the hospital room has been his home for 260 days. The cost to Medicaid to keep him there is about 2.5 times what his nursing home cost.

I’m sure the hospital helped Anderson when he was sick. But the story never mentions the possibility that, as a healthy patient kept in bed, the hospital may not be motivated to find him a nursing home. Perhaps that is not the case, but under the circumstances it should be investigated.

While NPR makes it clear that the nursing home is doing wrong, they never question Medicaid which established reimbursement rates that won’t pay enough for Anderson to be given the extra care he needs. Listening to the story, NPR seems more concerned about the cost to Medicaid than about Anderson.

Also, NPR seems to assume that this bureaucratic mess, that leaves Anderson and others unprotected, is an accident. But is it? Maybe some group in the California government knew that they would not pay enough to cover the costs of people like Anderson. Rather than see nursing homes go bankrupt or face a shortage of nursing homes when investors find then unprofitable, they set up a system to cover for nursing home expulsions and cover over Medicaid’s inadequacies.

Some Californians are now suing the state to try to make them enforce the law.

Once again, we find the government engaged in rationing. They give us promises to make us depend on them, but when we are frail and vulnerable they cast us off. We should have never become so dependent on government.

It is simply government propaganda that “the private sector”—the government’s term for voluntary society free from coercion—did not and could not provide healthcare for people.

This California healthcare lawsuit is another piece of evidence that Bernie Sanders’ proposal for universal healthcare would be a disaster.

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Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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