Friday, December 21, 2007

When Bureaucrats Kill

I heard this story this morning on the Marketplace Morning Report, and "infuriated" doesn't begin to describe how I still feel.
A 17-year-old girl died at UCLA Medical Center last night. Heartbreaking enough. But her death has a lot of people upset with her insurance company. CIGNA refused to cover a liver transplant for her. . . .


Nataline Sarkisyan had been battling leukemia. She developed complications from a bone-marrow transplant. That caused her liver to fail.

CIGNA said there was a lack of evidence that a transplant would help. The company changed its mind and said it would cover a transplant after protests yesterday organized by a California nurses' union. But Sarkisyan died before she could have the transplant.

Whenever I hear people whine about "socialized medicine", one of the refrains that sounds most often is "I don't want bureaucrats deciding treatment". I try to explain that we already have that, only they're private bureaucrats, not public ones. In the former case, they are bureaucrats whose primary loyalty is to the company for which they work and the stockholders of said company. In the latter case, as long as the law is written well, their need be no such problems (one of the benefits of public versus private bureaucracies). This doesn't mean the system will be perfect. It only means that the bureaucrats with whom we deal will be loyal to a law the defines exactly how they should act.

All the arguments over mandates, all the nonsensical drivel about socialized medicine misses the simple reality that even with health insurance, people are denied coverage and suffer the consequences, including death. I don't give a damn about the insurance companies' bottom line. One young woman's death is one too many, and CIGNA has that, and many others (I am sure) on their corporate consciences. They killed this young woman in the name of profit, as surely as they had put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger.

Like we always hear in Mafia movies, it isn't personal, it's just business. Dead is still dead, though.

Virtual Tin Cup

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