Welcome to Arizona: Home of The REAL Death Panels

In 2009, President Obama and the Democratic Congress were in the midst of fighting for health care reform. A plan was developed that would cover all Americans and deliver quality care that was affordable. Republicans rejected the idea of course, and instead of debating the plan on its merits and with actual facts, we got this accusation from Sarah Palin:

“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”

Sarah Palin knew exactly what she was doing when she said this unsubstantiated statement. She was using fear to turn the American people against the health care bill. All of sudden Republicans were using the term “death panels” to describe the bill at every town hall and in front of every news camera. The term killed the public option but it didn’t kill the entire bill either, which is called the Affordable Care Act today. But in an eerie turn of events, it turns out Sarah Palin was right. Not about death panels being in the health care bill, but that they exist. And these death panels weren’t created by Democrats, but by the very Republican Party that Sarah Palin is part of.

The state of Arizona, under overwhelming Republican control, has taken the liberty of denying life saving organ transplants to people who have already been approved by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state’s version of Medicaid. So far, 98 low-income patients approved for organ transplants have been told they are no longer getting them because of state budget cuts, and two people have already died. Arizona faces a 1.5 billion dollar budget deficit and so far Arizona has cut all state funded lung transplants, some bone marrow transplants, and some heart transplants in a move that Governor Jan Brewer claims, will save the state 4.5 million dollars which is mere pocket change compared to the total budget deficit. Governor Brewer, however, recently claimed that it had been forced to cut the transplant program because the health care reform overhaul had prevented the state from being able to “save cash by making it harder to qualify” for Medicaid. This is a complete fabrication. As part of the 4.2 billion dollars in stimulus money, Arizona received 1.7 billion dollars to help fund Medicaid.

The problem is, Governor Brewer has decided not to give this money to Medicaid. Instead she has spent approximately 200 million dollars of the stimulus funds and not one penny has gone toward Medicaid, but to repair a sports arena roof, and 50 million dollars has been spent on prisons. Apparently, Governor Brewer has no compassion for transplant patients whose lives are literally on the line, but she has a special place in her soul for improving the lives of murderers and rapists. How in the hell does this happen in America?

The best part of being an American is knowing that your government has the power to save your life and improve it. What kind of an America is Jan Brewer pretending to live in? Death panels were an instrument of evil in Nazi Germany and other places in the world where absolute dictators believed that the elderly and the weak had to die because they were considered a drain on resources. Well, this is exactly what the state of Arizona is doing. And instead of calling an emergency meeting of the state legislature to solve the problem and save lives, Jan Brewer is enjoying acting like a dictator.

The Republicans spent much of 2009 falsely claiming that the health care bill included the use death panels. They have now committed hypocrisy as a party by not only allowing the Arizona death panels to continue, but have also largely refrained from criticizing them. Apparently when the deficit or debt is involved, the Republicans will try anything to close the gaps, even sacrificing human lives. But its worse than that. This practice is now beginning to spread into states where Republicans have almost total control. Take Texas for instance. Republicans have control of the entire state. Only a few Democrats remain, but not enough to offer a true opposition. To solve its deficit, Texas officials are close to cutting Medicaid entirely. And other states may follow suit, especially those in the South. This will most certainly lead to more transplant denials and more losses of life, even among pregnant women and children.

The reality is that denying transplants and cutting Medicaid doesn’t even scratch the surface of solving budget problems. If states want revenue, they need to start bringing back jobs to their citizens and then raise tax rates. Its may seem like political suicide but at this moment, we need politicians to use unpopular solutions that do not cost people their lives. Or better yet, Republicans can swallow their pride and arrogance concerning the stimulus and start using it for the programs it was meant for. The average transplant can cost anywhere from 260,000 to over one million dollars depending on the organ needed. So, Governor Brewer could just spend one billion dollars on Medicaid and those 98 people would be saved with change to spare.

Republicans tout the Constitution but have completely forgotten the words that founded this nation in the first place. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words are found in the Declaration of Independence and are considered the basis for individual human rights. As Americans, each of us has a right to life. Its not something you pay for, or earn. Its a right. No one has the right to take life away from a person, not a citizen, not a representative, not a senator, not a president, not even a mere governor has the right to take life away from a law abiding citizen of the United States of America. And in Arizona, that is exactly what is happening. The GOP claims to be pro-life, yet they are continuing to take life away. By violating the founding document of this nation, Republicans are proving just how ignorant and arrogant they are and just how little they care about America and its sacred foundations. When life is no longer of importance to politicians, they’ve outlived their usefulness as representatives of the people and as human beings. Its time for Republicans to put petty politics aside and start showing compassion for people. That is how leaders really get elected. If Republicans want to prove how much they value life, they will end the death panels in Arizona, and abandon plans for death panels elsewhere. This country is all about saving lives, not abandoning people. If we are to survive as a nation, we must not only fight for ourselves, but for each other as well.

If we want to be a better nation, we must be a healthy nation. Death panels are not only unethical, but are also un-American.