General Assembly Ohio's Death Panel

(Pictured from left to right: Ohio House Speaker designate Bill Batchelder (R- Medina), Governor-elect John Kasich (R), and Senate President-designate Thomas Neihaus (R-New Richmond))

A month ago, Speaker-designate Bill Batchelder indicated that his House Republicans may cut Medicaid eligibility in half, thus cutting off access to affordable, quality health care to thousands of expecting mothers, children, and other Ohioans.

Where’s Sarah Palin to protest the death panel Governor-elect Kasich and his allies in the legislature are plotting to convene to determine who lives and who dies?

And if you think the situation isn’t this dire, consider what Medicaid cuts have done in nearby Indiana and Arizona.

During the campaign, John Kasich loved to compare himself to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.  Thanks to Governor Daniels’ budget cuts, children now struggle to get the surgeries they need to live:

After his open heart surgery at 2 1/2 weeks old went so well, doctors were talking about letting the boy, born in July, go home just three days after the procedure. However, his parents soon were devastated to learn he was diagnosed with Complete DiGeorge syndrome, a rare and fatal condition that means his body can’t fight infections or viruses.

The only way to fix the problem is through a procedure done by only one doctor at only one hospital in the country.

Seth’s parents, Becky and Tim Petreikis, of Dyer, quickly learned the procedure isn’t covered by their son’s Medicaid, and their two appeals to the state’s Family and Social Services Administration have been denied. Petreikis will need the shunt in his heart replaced by February, but he can’t have the surgery done unless the Complete DiGeorge syndrome is addressed first.

“It’s like he’s been sentenced to death,” Becky Petreikis said.

Marcus Barlow, a spokesman for the state’s FSSA, said the procedure, called a thymus transplant, is considered experimental and therefore not covered by the state’s Medicaid.

“These cases are rare and the reason why state regulations exist,” he said. “We don’t want them reviewed on a case-by-case basis. … There’s quite a bit of due process based on very specific rules.”

In other words, Seth Petreikis was set to die thanks to Indiana’s “death panel.”   The Petreikis’ asked the State agency to give them a waiver to cover the cost of the surgery, and agency that had seem steep cuts to their funding under Gov. Daniels, forcing an agency with dwindling funding having to choose whether to say yes, to Seth, knowing that they’d may not have the money to say yes to other cases as a result.

Three days after this story broke, and as it started to become national news, suddenly the Petreikis’ got good news, after the State denied two of their appeals– the family’s Medicaid medical provider changed their mind and approved the potential life-changing procedure. 

But not every family in Indiana gets the benefit of getting their story picked up by CNN until “no” becomes “yes.”  Earlier this year, numerous parents testified to a state legislative committee that a state agency told them that if the parents couldn’t afford to care for their disabled adult children, they should just drop them off at homeless shelters.  Despite the agency’s denial that such recommendations were a matter of policy, the media later learned that there was considerable documentation that it was actual state policy under Daniels after massive budget cuts in the agency charged with providing assistance for such disabled adults.

In Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer (R)’s Medicaid cuts has lead to 100 Arizonians who had been approved for organ transplants to learn that the State will no longer cover their transplants.

One of those 100, Francisco Felix, missed his opportunity to receive a liver transplant Tuesday. Without coverage, Felix couldn’t find $200,000 overnight to pay for the procedure. He is back on the waiting list.

Since the changes became effective on Oct. 1, three national transplant organizations sent a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer requesting a meeting to dispute the exclusion of certain organ transplants from AHCCCS.

“This baseless exclusion of coverage to Arizona citizens for services that represent the best treatment option for patients with end-stage organ failure [to both improve survival and quality of life] represents an actual death sentence for many of these citizens of Arizona,” said AST President Maryl R. Johnson.

Brewer intended to cut 250,000 citizens off the Medicaid rolls, but the federal health care law (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) prohibits States from dumping people off their Medicaid rolls into the numbers of uninsured Americans before the health care reform bill is in full effect.  Brewer, of course, is asking for a waiver from the federal health care reforms’ mandates and is suing the federal government to challenge the constitutionality of the federal health care reform bill.

This is what Kasich, Batchelder, and Niehaus have planned for Ohio.  But in the end, the federal health care reform bill may be the only thing that stops Ohio’s “death panel” to enact their massive cuts in Medicaid eligibility like it has done in Arizona.  That is if incoming Attorney General Mike DeWine’s constitutional challenge to the health care law doesn’t succeed.

Ironically, the fact that the federal health care reform bill has now been passed, it has stopped “death panels” instead of creating them.

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