Outspoken Lamm to speak on health care rationing | AspenTimes.com

Outspoken Lamm to speak on health care rationing

Aspen Times Staff Report

When Richard Lamm was elected governor of Colorado in 1975, he “knew nothing” about health care, but after watching the issue take center stage every budget season, he soon became an expert.

In the years since, Lamm has become one of the most outspoken and innovative thinkers in the field.

Thursday, Lamm will give a presentation titled “The Brave New World of Healthcare” at the Given Institute, as part of the Institute’s summer public lecture series. The free lecture will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Given Institute, located at 100 E. Francis St., with light refreshments served at 5 p.m.

Lamm, co-director of the Center for Public Policy and Contemporary Issues at the University of Denver, is currently on the speaking circuit to publicize his new book of the same name.

“Health care is symbolic of everything that is good and caring, but it’s also symbolic of everything that’s excessive and expensive,” said Lamm, adding that health care costs are rising at two-and-a-half times the rate of inflation.

His favorite model for health care can be found in Oregon – the only state in the nation that has passed a law setting priorities for Medicaid health care benefits. For example, Oregon strictly limited the number of organ transplants allowed under Medicaid, and used the money instead to provide higher levels of prenatal care.

Legislators in Oregon faced a strong backlash when the media publicized the case of an 8-year-old boy who couldn’t get an organ transplant.

“That case was highly publicized, but I believe that Oregon saved a great many more lives by focusing on prenatal care,” said Lamm. “It’s just that the lives they saved were off camera.”

Oregon passed its controversial law in 1989, and other states have considered similar legislation, including Colorado. Lamm said other states have yet to make the hard choices to approve similar laws.

Lamm wants to see government “concern itself more with extending the health care floor than raising the research ceiling.” He said he is focused more on quality of life than quantity of life.

“This may sound extreme, but I can’t see a reasonable scenario for artificial hearts in this country. In a nation that doesn’t provide health care coverage for 42 percent of its people, we shouldn’t spend money on artificial hearts when the average recipient is 69 years old.”

Lamm said the American psyche sometimes stands in the way of real health care reform.

“We have to ration health care in a way that will provide a greater quality of life for a greater number of people,” he said. “Right now, we’re rationing health care by simply leaving people out of the system.”

Upcoming Given lectures include: Bernard Wagner, MD – Health and the Environment: Why are We Scared? on Aug. 7; Richard A. Spritz, MD – The Human Genome Project and the Future of Medicine on Aug. 12; Lee Osterman, MD – The Boundless Potential of Peripheral Nerve Regeneration on Aug. 19; and Dr. David Braddock – Cognitive Disability, Emerging Technology and the University of Colorado’s Coleman Institute on Sept. 18.

The Given Institute, a property of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, is celebrating its 30th year of hosting numerous national and international conferences as well as professional medical seminars.

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