Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, has taken the lead role in negotiating the health care reform bill for the GOP. But earlier today during a radio interview with Iowa City’s KCJJ, Grassley steered the conversation with a caller toward rationing health care services among the elderly, one of the right wing’s favorite fearmongering tactics when it comes to health care reform. And as an example, Grassley cited Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-MA) brain tumor. Grassley said that in countries with government-run health care, Kennedy “would not get the care he gets here because of his age.” Instead, the government would decide to spend health care resources on younger people “who can contribute to the economy”:
GRASSLEY: In countries that have government-run health care, just to give you an example, I’ve been told that the brain tumor that Sen. Kennedy has — because he’s 77 years old — would not be treated the way it’s treated in the United States. In other words, he would not get the care he gets here because of his age. In other words, they’d say ‘well he doesn’t have long to live even if he lived another four to five years.’ They’d say ‘well, we gotta spend money on people who can contribute more to economy.’ It’s a little like people saying when somebody gets to be 85 their life is worth less than when they were 35 and you pull the tubes on them.
“Many Americans are under the delusion that we have ‘the best health care system in the world,’” wrote the New York Times editorial page in 2007, but “the disturbing truth is that this country lags well behind other advanced nations in delivering timely and effective care.” Among developed countries, the United States has the 10th highest death rate among cancer patients, higher than Spain and Sweden.
But the larger problem Grassley ignores is cost. For Kennedy, access to health care is not an issue. Among most Americans, however, staggering health costs prevent more than half of U.S. patients from gaining access to medical care. Last year, 38 percent of U.S. patients did not receive recommended treatment compared to 11 percent in Canada and 6 percent in the U.K. And even among Americans with insurance, 43 percent of adults with chronic conditions nevertheless had access problems because of cost.