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The Suburbanite
  • Jim Hillibish: Medicare’s already rationing medical care

  • When they talk about rationing health care due to high cost, well, it’s here.

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  • Running to me is like mowing the grass, except when you’re finished, you still have to mow the grass.
    I was oddly relieved when my doctor told me I am no longer NFL eligible. I’m banned from the NFL, as I’m on the same drug some of the pros use illegally to boost their energy. I plead guilty. I love it.
    But all is not nirvana. The Medicare financial crisis is hitting some people right in the needle stick. The nasty words, “care rationing,” are upon us. It’s just starting. We worry how far it will go.
    Amgen chanced upon a miracle. They found a way to inspire blood cells tired from excessive exertion, including the ravages of chemotherapy, to work harder. The key is a protein molecule called hemoglobin. The more hemoglobin, the longer you run.
    Remember the TV ads for Epogen? That’s the drug, designed for chemo patients. They shed red blood cells with every treatment. The same thing happens to us kidney dialysis patients. Eventually, we all are anemic wreckage.
    Ten years ago, we had to take blood transfusions to pump up our cell count, only to soon lose it and feel like not doing anything. Then came Amgen Epogen and now its cheaper cousin, Aranesp, our saviors.
    I really do mow my grass after treatments. Life is good, but costly.
    Epogen/Aranesp has many prices. Some doctors charge $3,000 or more per injection. My dose costs a still-incredible $480 per week. It’s worth every penny, when I’m not paying for it.
    With prices like this, somebody in Washington watches our monthly blood tests. If our hemoglobin goes above 9, they cut off Medicare coverage.
    So they are telling us: “You can be too healthy.”
    We’re all different, but 9 hemoglobin is hardly healthy. Male adults need 14 to 18, way out of the funding parameter. At 9, many of us would rather be sleeping. Who decided this?
    Our medical care already is being rationed. Many in the medical community expect it will only get worse, to the point of delaying or denying.
    They’re debating this in Europe. They’re delayng n Canada and denying in Asia. A friend of mine’s mother was denied dialysis care in India. She died, of course.
    Her son became a kidney specialist in the U.S. and, yes, he believes Medicare eventually will end it’s “all you can eat” coverage.