SB 88 Would Give Insurers Big Profits
To the Editor:
Too often, cost-driven health insurers treat patients like numbers on a ledger. We all know someone who was given a prognosis based on a statistic, rather than really knowing the person. That “just a number” culture grows exponentially when public and private health plans have legal and cheap assisted suicide to protect their bottom line.
Lethal assisted suicide drugs are far less expensive for insurers than paying for treatment or quality hospice care. Stephanie Packer, a California mother of four, experienced this first-hand. When coverage of costly treatment was denied, she was told insurance would pay for assisted suicide drugs for a $1.20 co-pay.
When insurers deny coverage or even delay approval of time-critical treatment, patients like Stephanie are nudged toward the “choice” of assisted suicide.
Connecticut people already have trouble accessing quality healthcare due to disability, financial status, and race. At-risk patients and their physicians must constantly fight insurers for important services, treatments, and medication, including pain drugs, only to be denied coverage.
Meanwhile, a handful of Connecticut legislators and a well-heeled out-of-state special interest group are pushing legislation which would make suicide a medical “treatment.” In our cost-driven healthcare system, the wealthy and well-insured will have one more option, but for people who are at risk, suicide will become the only “treatment” to which they have equal access.
If the issue was pain, proponents would advocate for a palliative care bill that increases training for medical professionals and access for Connecticut residents. The fact is, pain is not in the top five reasons people request lethal drugs in states where it is legal. The top reasons are loss of enjoyment in usual activities, loss of dignity, loss of autonomy, and being a burden to their family.
These are all disability-related issues which can be remedied in ways other than suicide. Often, insurers do not cover the in-home care and other services that might alleviate a person’s suicide wish. Yet, where assisted suicide is legal, the state is happy to pay for lethal drugs.
Why? It saves them a bundle.
Assisted suicide as a public policy has proven dangerous in other states with vulnerable people hurt the most. Researchers say that anywhere between 20-60% of cancer patients have symptoms of depression. Yet, referrals for psychiatric screenings are not required under these laws and seldom happen.
There is no medical professional required at the time of ingestion to ensure patient autonomy. And there is no mechanism to identify coercion or abuse. With every death certificate saying the cause of death is “natural,” and all records shredded at the end of each year, the system is designed to disregard irregularities.
Let’s not reward public and private insurers with big dollars while treating patients like a number on an actuarial table. Legislators should reject SB 88. It is dangerous public policy disguised as compassion. Our goal should be on increasing healthcare and treatment options — not limiting them.
Editor’s note: Cathy Ludlum is a member of Second Thoughts Connecticut, a grassroots disability organization opposed to the legalization of medical assisted suicide.