- - Tuesday, June 11, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The hearts of everyone across America were touched by the plight of young Sarah Murnaghan, the girl in dire need of a lung transplant. That is, all the hearts except those in the Obama administration. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius had no problem turning her back because of bureaucratic red tape, myriad regulations and a quagmire of gross ineptness driving up the cost and driving down the quality of health care.

Sarah has cystic fibrosis and can potentially be cured with a lung transplant. Because she has not reached the age of 12, she falls in a category at the bottom of the list despite her critical condition. Mrs. Sebelius had the authority to make an exception in Sarah’s case, but she chose to ignore her, claiming the decision was “incredibly agonizing” and saying medical experts should be making those decisions. Physicians did make the decision, and Mrs. Sebelius built a Berlin Wall between Sarah and her chance for life.

The Murnaghans hammered at Mrs. Sebelius, and all they got was the promise for a review to identify potential improvements to the policy that would make more transplants available to children “consistent with the goals of fairness and best use of organs.” This is idiocy since Mrs. Sebelius is aware young Sarah doesn’t have time to wait for a typical government review.

In a desperate effort to save their daughter’s life, the Murnaghans sought legal recourse and prevailed. A temporary injunction against the government regulations is currently in effect.

Physicians often say the government and Obamacare drive a wedge between the patient-physician relationship. This is not true, in my opinion. With more than 33 years’ experience in the practice of surgery, mostly dealing with cancer patients, the government per se never came between me and my patients. However, the government’s regulations over the years built a wall, like the Berlin Wall, between me and my patients, and the health care they needed was on the other side. In Sarah Murnaghan’s case, Mrs. Sebelius represents that Berlin Wall.

The government would have you think the key is to contain the cost of health care, and to accomplish this, it applies a four-letter word — deny. In reality, the government, with its lack of transparency, is not telling us how much is being spent in the denial process.

The study Mrs. Sebelius wants to institute for young transplant candidates will cost the taxpayers, but how much? In a recent seminar sponsored by the Greeley Co., it was mentioned Health and Human Services has approximately 2,000 dates slated for implementation of new health care regulations. Granted, several of these will roll out at the same time, but think of the manpower and cost necessary to create and maintain this mess.

The government has built a Berlin Wall of regulations to separate our citizens from quality health care and Mrs. Sebelius is the gatekeeper. I applaud the Murhaghans for their persistence, and I pray for young Sarah.

Dealing with my own patients and having lived through my husband’s emergency liver transplant, I recall denials from insurance carriers for many procedures. There were, however, numerous letters and countless phone calls, many with colorful language. Over the years, I learned to stop dealing with the tallest tree in the forest of red tape and go directly to the root that feeds it.

As long as Congress funds Obamacare, the wall will stand. Going through legal channels, as in the Murnaghan case, provides a temporary remedy. To end the bureaucratic barrier to health in this nation, the wall must come down. Everyone’s life, especially little Sarah‘s, depends on it.

Dr. Constance Uribe is a general surgeon and author of “The Health Care Provider’s Guide to Facing the Malpractice Deposition” (CRC Press, 1999).

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