Remember death panels?

Sure you do. It's what you find when you put "Palin" and "health care reform" into Google. (Another way of describing the "death panel" discussion involves the word "lie," but I suppose that particular horse has already shuffled this mortal coil and is no longer worth beating.)

It turns out that Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona heard former half-term Alaska Governor Palin's rhetoric and decided it sounded like good policy. From a heart-rending article in the Times:
Effective at the beginning of October, Arizona stopped financing certain transplant operations under the state’s version of Medicaid. Many doctors say the decision amounts to a death sentence for some low-income patients, who have little chance of survival without transplants and lack the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to pay for them.


Organ transplants are already the subject of a web of regulations, which do not guarantee that everyone in need of a life-saving organ will receive one. But Arizona’s transplant specialists are alarmed that patients who were in line to receive transplants one day were, after the state’s budget cuts to its Medicaid program, ruled ineligible the next — unless they raised the money themselves.
Gov. Brewer also seems to share her former colleague's uneasy relationship with the truth:
The Republican governor has in turn blamed “Obamacare,” meaning the federal health care overhaul, for the transplant cuts even though the Arizona vote came in March, before President Obama signed that bill into law.
Fantastic! If there's one thing that makes a bad situation better, it's a lie.

This article serves as an important reminder of the stakes in the health care debate, and what our honest choices are. Cutting the public safety net for low-income people means that people will fall ill and, in some cases, die because they cannot afford to pay for them. Perhaps we as a society are willing to countenance this reality.

I am willing to concede that far too much discussion about health care has focused on the question of access/payment and far too little has focused on controlling costs. American health care is too expensive, and we need to pay more attention to what we're spending our money on and why. Believe me when I tell you that there is plenty of inefficiency that bears more scrutiny than it gets.

However, I cannot believe that the best answer is to cut off funding for life-saving interventions like organ transplants. Nixing patients from transplant rosters because they can't afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to pay for the care is unspeakably ghoulish, and surely we can find a better solution than this.

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