Letter: Louisianians have right to care

As chairman of the House of Representatives Health and Welfare Committee, I often see firsthand the impact that government can have — both good and bad — on the citizens that it is supposed to serve. While we have worked to improve the quality and efficiency of our health delivery system, I am constantly reminded that the decisions we make ultimately have real consequences for the lives of our people.

Louisiana has a strong tradition of protecting the most vulnerable lives in our society. As we have worked to rebuild our health system to deliver services in a more efficient and cost-effective manner, we have also established protections for the patients served by our system. Because of numerous federal changes to our health system and pressure on state budgets across the country due to the national economic downturn, Louisiana is not alone in pushing state health reforms.

Unfortunately, some states have gone too far in their cost containment policies by implementing rules that ration health care. Last year, Oregon employed a new policy that would deny coverage for some cancer patients based on their diagnoses and odds of survival. Rather than seeing those battling disease as fellow human beings, this harsh policy reduced people to numbers on a page.

When I became aware of these policies, I knew, as someone committed to protecting life at all stages — not only from conception, but throughout life — that these policies were wrong and a gross overstep that put a government agency in the position of putting a price tag on human life. In baseball terms, the Oregon policy was the equivalent of allowing a batter to have two strikes at cancer, but then having a government agency tell him to return to the dugout before he got a third swing.

During the recently concluded legislative session, we worked with cancer advocates to develop and pass legislation to protect Louisianans from being denied health coverage based on their life expectancy or odds of survival. This legislation better equips Louisianans diagnosed with terminal conditions, their families and their health providers the ability to make their own health choices without bureaucratic intervention.

I am thankful to my colleagues in the Legislature for their overwhelming support of this Right to Treatment legislation and for Gov. Bobby Jindal, who signed Act 541 into law. With this new law, Louisianans will have access to innovative treatments without bureaucratic intrusion, and we uphold our longstanding tradition of protecting all human life in our state.

Scott Simon

state representative, District 74

Abita Springs