How much should insurers pay to save a life?


I read in The Los Angeles Times  a story that really got me thinking about health care in our country.

Jalal Afshar was a member of the HMO Kaiser Permanente, an insurer with a true staff model that gives you less out of pocket than in more traditional health care models. He had a rare disease called Castleman’s disease. Kaiser Permanente did what they could and then told him to make hospice arrangements for the end of his life.

But Jalal refused to take that as an answer. So he did research and finds a doctor in Arkansas who is a Castleman’s specialist. He got Kaiser’s permission to go see the doctor, and he actually got healed.

Now Kaiser won’t pick up the $2 million tab for stem cell transplants and chemotherapy that saved his life.

This is a not beat up on Kaiser message. This is an issue about doctors having breakthrough treatments, and who will pay and how much are we willing as a country to pay? If you ask the economists, they’d tell you not to do anything and then people would die?

So this is a classic moral dilemma. How much of our national wealth will we devote to life saving care for people?

This guy got a second chance at life through new treatments for disease. But Jalal can’t come up with $2 million. So how do we resolve this? I am asking you because I don’t know and I want your thoughts…

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