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Insurers use California’s assisted-suicide law to deny treatment for terminal patients

Insurers use California’s assisted-suicide law to deny treatment for terminal patients

“As soon as this law was passed… patients fighting for a longer life end up getting denied treatment…”

About one-year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state’s assisted-suicide bill into law. It fully went into effect this June, with the opening of the first clinic. While there is no data on the number of California assisted-suicides, Oregon recorded over 130 last year as part of their legalized physician-assisted death program.

Now, one young mother says her insurance company denied her coverage for chemotherapy treatment after originally agreeing to provide the fiscal support for it, but indicated it would be willing to pay for assisted suicide instead.

Stephanie Packer, a wife and mother of four who was diagnosed with a terminal form of scleroderma, said her insurance company initially indicated it would pay for her to switch to a different chemotherapy drug at the recommendation of her doctors.

…But shortly after California’s End of Life Option Act, which authorizes physicians to diagnose a life-ending dose of medication to patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live, went into effect, Ms. Packer’s insurance company had a change of heart.

“And when the law was passed, it was a week later I received a letter in the mail saying they were going to deny coverage for the chemotherapy that we were asking for,” Ms. Packer said.

She said she called her insurance company to find out why her coverage had been denied. On the call, she also asked whether suicide pills were covered under her plan.

“And she says, ‘Yes, we do provide that to our patients, and you would only have to pay $1.20 for the medication,’” Ms. Packer said.

Packer attends meetings with others suffering from terminal illnesses. She indicates that the tone of those meetings have changed since the California assisted-suicide law was enacted.

“As soon as this law was passed – and you see it everywhere, when these laws are passed – patients fighting for a longer life end up getting denied treatment, because this will always be the cheapest option.”

Packer attends a support group for terminally ill patients. She said legally sanctioned suicide has changed the tone of the meetings, which used to be “positive and encouraging.” With patients under new societal pressure to kill themselves, she said meetings “became negative, and it started consuming people. And then they said, ‘You know what? I wish I could just end it.'”

Concerned about the enormous potential for abuse, a the national organization, Patients Rights Action Fund, has created a website for patients like Packer. The online resource offers a place for patients, family members, concerned friends to report possible coercion, failure to identify depression or other patient mental health concerns, and complications that arise from the overdose prescription or other aspects of the assisted-suicide process.

  • Were you or someone you know pressured to use assisted suicide, misleadingly known as ‘death with dignity’ or ‘aid in dying’?
  • Did you or a loved one have a chronic, life-threatening illness and personal circumstances where you/they felt like suicide or assisted suicide was your only option?
  • Did a doctor advise you or someone you know of a prognosis of 6 months or less that was wrong by months, years, or even decades?
  • Were you or a loved one denied coverage for a life-sustaining treatment or medication by your HMO or insurance company?

During his Gettysburg Address describing the first 100 days in office if he is elected President, Donald Trump indicated he would work to replace Obamcare with health savings accounts, remove barriers to purchasing health insurance across state lines, allow states to manage Medicaid funds and speed up drug approval inside the Food and Drug Administration.

However, his election would be too late help many terminally-ill Californians who are now experiencing the unintended, but quite predictable, consequence of yet another feel good progressive policy.


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Whatever you do, don’t call them death panels. Because that’s racist, or something.

[Sarcasm] GASP! An insurance company acting as a DEATH PANEL?

Say it ain’t so![/sarcasm]

I’m actually surprised that the Insurance Company is allowed to pay for the Suicide Assistance drugs. It seems like that would be against their requirements to attempt to support their customer’s health.

This is one reason to NEVER put attorneys or accountants in charge of anything important.

Can these drugs be used for executions? Seriously. Do they meet the ‘unusual punishment’ standard? They should if they are going to be in common use for assisted suicide. That should solve the problem some states have in getting drugs for executions.

I’m not sure what to think about the action of the ins co. At first glance it wounds terrible, but society has put them in a bind – we want unlimited life saving attempts but complain when costs rise. Having just buried a close friend after a 9yr cancer battle, I’m not sure the last 3 months offered enough quality of life to be worth the effort or cost. Lots of questions, very few clear answers.

Soon, at the demand of federal HHS, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to waste precious money on “suicide pills.” Instead, those who need them (or who the government deems to be most likely to benefit from exiting society quickly) will be given free train rides to special clinics where they will be able to leave this life, together, with proper dignity, while taking a communal shower.

In order to satisfy the evil Republicans (who just hate paying for necessary government services) there may be a small requirement that those who benefit from this program first defray the costs by doing some manual labor in service to the community. But don’t worry, a sign at the gates of the Benevolent End of Life Clinic will explain that Work Shall Make You Free.

Somewhere… Sarah Palin like every other opponent of Obamacare is screaming “we told you so” about death panels and the evils of Obamacare.

Another “final solution”. Since the resumption of abortion rites under the Pro-Choice Church it has been a progressive slope.

Soylent green is PEOPLE!

Humphrey's Executor | October 23, 2016 at 8:37 pm

Had the FDA certified that the assisted suicide drugs are safe and effective?

legacyrepublican | October 23, 2016 at 8:55 pm

Sorry, this article really hurts.

My mother died from Schleroderma.

She fought every moment to live. It is one of the worst diseases you can get. It is also called a woman’s disease because it strikes mostly women.

In case you don’t know, the chemotherapy drug is more than likely needed in her case to suppress her immune system which has turned on itself. It isn’t killing a cancer cell per se.

Schleroderma is a form of lupus. What it means that the immune system turns the skin to stone and attacks the organs much the same way.

Although her disease has reached a terminal stage, that stage could be put off for as much as 18 months with proper treatment.

Also, as an autoimmune disease, there can be remission too.

My prayers are with her and her family.

    Sorry to hear about your mom.

    You probably don’t want to hear from a “crackpot” like me at this point, but you should look into vaccines and their role in creating autoimmune disorders, lupus, etc.

    Have an open mind. It might make you mad as hell.

      legacyrepublican in reply to RKae. | October 24, 2016 at 10:00 pm

      There is some merit to that.

      My mother, her sorority sister in AZ, and her MA college friend in junior college all died within two years of each other from schleroderma. In addition, a gentleman with whom her sorority sister dated died of a disease that is closely related to schleroderma.

      I brought it up to the doctors at the time and they discounted it.

      However, in that era, I have heard that vaccines were made with dead viruses made inert with low amounts of mercury or silver.

      I believe that it was a combination of environmental factors that caused the disease. Vaccines could be one of them.

    stephpacker in reply to legacyrepublican. | November 6, 2016 at 8:09 am

    Hey there legacy. This is Stephanie Packer. I am very sorry to hear about your mom. Unfortunately, you have been given some misinformation. So many patients have issues with this as well. This is why I began my support groups. There are many doctors who do not even understand the basics of the disease. Scleroderma is not a form of lupus and should not be treated as such. They are sister diseases as there is a common occurrence of overlapping symptoms. There are similarities, but there are some very distinct differences. Take fibrosis for example… Lupus fibrosis can be reversed and Scleroderma is always permanent. Additionally, lupus can go into remission whereas Scleroderma does not. So far, there has been success with a few treatments. While it always depends on your body and on what symptoms the patient is experiencing. I have heard of patients with stem cell transplants and lesser organ involvement living 10+ years post transplant depending on the severity of their disease prior to treatment. Actually, when I was first sick, my doctor put me on a strictly lupus treatment and I nearly died.Thankfully I was admitted to a hospital where the doctor was familiar with Scleroderma and pulmonary fibrosis, so I was able to top the medications I was on, and begin proper treatment for the disease that was wrecking havoc on my body. Now I am a patient advocate with the hopes that more patients will be helped because awareness of this particular disease spreads, and awareness is always the first step towards a cure! Thanks again for sharing, and again, I am very sorry about your mom hun! Please take care, and keep spreading awareness! Hugs~ Stephanie

Lawmakers really didn’t think through the consequences of a lot of pissed off terminally ill people looking to hold someone accountable for their artificially shortened life.

Well, well..good old boy Zeke Emmanuel wishes for proactively and selectively reducing the population is coming to fruition. The progressives are completely void of morals and ethics. How is legalizing assisted suicide not a form of murder?

The power of insurance companies to deny life saving treatments has been around for a long time. Before the ACA and after. In states with no assisted suicide law, people are still being denied treatment, based on many crazy rules. One of those rules is: that the patient can only receive “palliative” or comfort care, because the drug does not meet the “five-year, 5 percent rule” — that is, a 5 percent survival rate after five years.

No matter where this woman lived, that insurance company would not cover the drug she needs, because it doesn’t meet their standards. Now who sets their standards, I don’t know. The only difference in this case is that the patient is being offered a second option. In most other states, they would just say no and then you would have to fight it, which you can still do in AS states.

For those people who are in horrible pain and cannot bear to continue with their suffering, these AS laws are a god-send. If you have ever known or seen anyone in this position, you would want to end their suffering too. It is called suicide because it is up to the patient to choose it. No one can force you into it, but these insurance companies have been given incredibly too much power over our lives (and deaths).

End of life issues are very personal and should only be decided by the patient, their loved ones, and the medical team attending to their care. I think it is good that at least now some people have another option at the end of life. One they are free to choose, or not. What we really need to start working on is setting some standards for treatment, and leave that up to the doctors to decide on, not the insurance companies.

    You must have missed this part of the article.

    her insurance company initially indicated it would pay for her to switch to a different chemotherapy drug at the recommendation of her doctors.

    This is me in reply to moritz1891. | October 26, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    “For those people who are in horrible pain and cannot bear to continue with their suffering, these AS laws are a god-send. If you have ever known or seen anyone in this position, you would want to end their suffering too.”

    I’m one of these people that you are so eager to make it legal for the government and doctors to murder. It’s bad enough that they think it’s a noble cause to kill us by withhold necessary medical treatment but far worse to enable them to actively participate in our death.

    We have truly come to a sad state of affairs when murdering someone is considered kindness.

    I know you won’t listen to what we want but others might. STOP STRIPPING ME OF MY PROTECTION TO LIVE.

holdingmynose | October 24, 2016 at 7:42 am

Remember when Gov Palin predicted “death panels” under Obamacare and was denounced as a ninny by just about everyone?

if IPAB involved doctors, patients and insurance companies would have no say anyways.

We know dead people vote for Democrats. Would assisted suicide dead people vote for them as well?

Soon Mexifornia Will Have Doctors Perform Forced Terminations on Inconvenient Patients, Just Like Netherlands Does

Georgia Guidestones, folks! We’re just a few million murders away from Utopia!

Oddly enough, prisoners would not be allowed to commit suicide, so if you want to live – get a life sentence.

Welcome to the Oregon experience.
Some doctors coerce patients. The following classic letter from an Oregonian is an example.
“Dear Editor, 
Hello from Oregon. 
When my husband was seriously ill several years ago, I collapsed in a half-exhausted heap in a chair once I got him into the doctor’s office, relieved that we were going to get badly needed help (or so I thought). 
To my surprise and horror, during the exam I overheard the doctor giving my husband a sales pitch for assisted suicide. ‘Think of what it will spare your wife, we need to think of her’ he said, as a clincher. 
Now, if the doctor had wanted to say ‘I don’t see any way I can help you, knowing what I know, and having the skills I have’ that would have been one thing. If he’d wanted to opine that certain treatments weren’t worth it as far as he could see, that would be one thing. But he was tempting my husband to commit suicide. And that is something different. 
I was indignant that the doctor was not only trying to decide what was best for David, but also what was supposedly best for me (without even consulting me, no less). 
We got a different doctor, and David lived another five years or so. But after that nightmare in the first doctor’s office, and encounters with a ‘death with dignity’ inclined nurse, I was afraid to leave my husband alone again with doctors and nurses, for fear they’d morph from care providers to enemies, with no one around to stop them. 
It’s not a good thing, wondering who you can trust in a hospital or clinic. I hope you are spared this in Hawaii. 
Kathryn Judson, Oregon”

While I support the right to choose for people facing a painful, debilitating death, I’m completely opposed to any insurance company mandating that one make a particular choice…especially when their doing so is so obviously to increase the company profits.

In the course of trying to discover the name of the company that tried to force her hand, I discovered one fact that hasn’t been widely reported in the various stories I initially read; When Stephanie threatened to go public, her (still unnamed) insurance company approved the drug her doctors prescribed.

Let’s hope that that continues to be the case when greed overrules a patient’s needs and wants…