Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Maine State Senator Proposes Bill that Would Deny Health Care to Smokers on Medicaid

According to an article in the Bangor Daily News, a Maine state Senator is introducing legislation that would deny state-funded medical treatment for smokers. The bill would prevent Maine residents from receiving MaineCare (i.e., state Medicaid) benefits for medical treatment if they smoke.

According to the article: "Sen. Thomas Saviello said Friday he decided to introduce a bill to keep people receiving MaineCare — the state’s Medicaid program — from receiving benefits at the suggestion of a constituent who also works in a rural health care clinic. Saviello did not identify the woman but said she’s expected to testify in favor of his bill. He said she’s troubled when she sees MaineCare patients who have respiratory problems and smoke heavily, because taxpayers are subsidizing treatment for illnesses that could be avoided. Saviello said he’s not sure how much money could be saved by not having to treat smoking-related illnesses, but “I suspect it could be pretty significant.”"

The Rest of the Story

Believe me when I say this is not a road that we want to go down.

If we are going to deny medical care for smokers, then what about denying coverage for people who eat a poor diet, who don't exercise, who sit around watching television all day, who are overweight, who don't control their blood pressure, who don't adequately control their blood sugar, who use tanning salons, who have unsafe sex, who expose themselves heavily to secondhand smoke, and who drive without seat belts?

The beauty of the entire medical system in the United States is specifically that we do not make moral judgments about people's character in making decisions about whether to provide health care to them. Once we undermine that principle by allowing medical treatment decisions to be made based on the moral perspectives of one group or another, then all holes are barred and medical treatment becomes a religious establishment rather than a right.

Hopefully, Senator Saviello will realize that his proposal is based on discrimination and bigotry and will withdraw the bill before it sees the light of day.

It will be particularly interesting to see whether any of the anti-smoking groups in Maine will come out publicly and denounce this legislation, as they should do immediately.

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