Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Monday, November 17, 2003  

I want to bring a case to your attention with as much sensitivity as I can. Yesterday, a 37-year-old man was removed from a ventilator. The reason this is significant is that he was on the ventilator because the State of Oregon cut his state-paid epilepsy medication in the midst of our budget crisis, sending him into seizure and causing massive brain damage.

The reason for this tragedy was unbending ideology and stupidity (here's that sensitivity part). In a state plagued by anti-tax fervor, Republicans refused to prop up massive budget shortfalls caused by their own (and Democrats') mismanagement, instead allowing extremely vulnerable people like this man to lose medication, be denied services, or be thrown out of state-supported institutions.

In February, Republicans signed on with other radical anti-tax fanatics to defeat a stopgap ballot measure that would have prevented the worst of these cuts. They claimed in their (extremely well-funded) advertisements that the legislature was just lazy--the money was there, they just needed the incentive to find it. (We're talking something like 20% shortfalls.) After the election, one particularly adamant fanatic, well-known anti-taxer Don McIntire, said: "We've had months and months of talk of calamity if Measure 28 failed. Now I want to see the calamity."

Again, there's the issue of sensitivity, but I'm going to say it, anyway: see it yet, Don?

(Of course, we lost police officers, turned out criminals, quit hearing criminal cases, and massively cut social services, too.)

The most maddening thing is, of course, that the anti-taxers' arguments were so wholly disengenous. Cutting off people's medication does not save a state money. It costs infinitely more financially, not to mention the cost in terms of human life.

Schmidt's seizure came a month after he and thousands of other Oregonians lost their prescription-drug benefit because of state budget cuts. In Schmidt's case, the state stopped paying for two drugs, including Lamictal, an antiseizure medication that costs $13 a day. He ran out of pills eight to 10 days before his seizure, his family said.

His hospital bill for the first five weeks ran 64 pages and totaled $272,364 -- about $7,200 a day. That does not count doctor fees. His care in the convalescent homes costs about $7,000 a month, not including several much more expensive hospitalizations. The total bill is likely in the $1 million range, his family said.

How Schmidt's medical costs will be paid is not clear, but taxpayers will foot the bill in one form or another. Payers include federal Medicare, because Schmidt was covered by Social Security Disability, and the state Office of Medical Assistance Programs. And hospitals may have to write off part of the bill as "uncompensated care," a loss that eventually leads to higher insurance premiums for everyone.

This is the kind of governance you get when the idealogues control the conversation--whether they be leaders in the Taliban or nuts like McIntire. The worst part is, it's unlikely he or any of those failed lawmakers will ever be held to account. Somehow, they'll still try to blame it on Democratic mismanagement.

posted by Jeff | 4:35 PM |
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