Putting a Price on Life: The Coming Fight Over Government Rationing of Medical Care

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This article appeared on The Mackinac Center for Public Policy on June 12, 2019.

In Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, government-run health care systems use “quality-adjusted life years” to help determine what medical procedures and drugs are available for patients. In theory, this prevents people from getting unnecessary treatment and helps prioritize patient care.

But in practice, it boils down to rationing, carried out by government bureaucrats. Pushed out of the equation are two key participants in medical care: doctors and patients. In Britain, for instance, this type of rationing has led to cancer patients having severely limited access to new treatments that are widely available in other countries. And the quality of life measure may be coming to the United States.

Dr. William Smith wrote a report critical of the QALY standard, questioning the extent that governments gets involved in judgments on the value of human life. At this event, he will discuss quality-life measurements, compare the difference between the government and private insurance when determining treatment and talk about the push for rationing by federal and state governments.


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