Chair Rodgers Speaks on the House Floor to Protect Patients from Discrimination in Health Care

“Let’s give people with disabilities, rare diseases, or chronic illness hope.” 

Washington D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) spoke on the House Floor today in support of H.R. 485, the Protecting Health Care for All Patients Act. Her legislation would ban Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) and other similar measures from being used in federal health care programs, removing a key way that these programs discriminate against people with disabilities and those with chronic and rare diseases. 

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SUPPORTING DIGNITY FOR ALL 

“I rise in strong support of H.R. 485, my Protecting Health Care for All Patients Act, which affirms every person’s life has value by banning the use of Quality-Adjusted Life Years, or QALYs, and similar discriminatory measures from all federal health programs.  

“As many of you know, my son Cole was born with a special, extra twenty-first chromosome—most of you know it as Down syndrome.  

“When Cole was born, doctors gave us a long list of challenges and chances for heartache.   

 “It was difficult, but I could have never imagined just how positively he would impact this my life, my family’s life, and the world.  

“Today, Cole is a fun-loving sixteen-year-old with big dreams. He wants to be a football player, a pastor, and a race car driver. He’s on the basketball team and plays the drums.

“For Cole, the sky’s the limit.   

“Cole, and others with disabilities, deserve every opportunity to succeed. 

“We shouldn’t be discounting their potential or pre-judging their quality of life just because of their disabilities.” 

DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTH CARE  

“Unfortunately, several tools frequently used in our health care system do just that.  

“QALYs and other similar discriminatory measures assign a dollar value on the life of a patient to decide if a certain treatment is cost-effective, oftentimes discounting an individual’s worth and need for care solely because of their disability or chronic illness.  

“It means a bureaucracy coldly determines the value of someone’s life and can deny necessary health care due to that calculation.  

“Measurements like QALYs remove the consideration of unique circumstances and health conditions of a patient and their doctor’s judgment from deciding what’s best for the patient.  

“I’m not alone in opposing the use of these measures.   

“Democrats acknowledged this when they banned the use of QALYs in Medicare in the Affordable Care Act.  

“In 2020, the Democratic National Committee platform stated that ‘Democrats will ensure that people with disabilities are never denied coverage based on the use of quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) indexes.’

“The non-partisan, National Council on Disabilities wrote a report in 2019 titled ‘Quality Adjusted Life Years and the Devaluation of Life with a Disability’ that condemned the usage of QALYs and has continued to write additional letters to Congress urging that we ban their use.  

“Additionally, we’ve heard from nearly 200 advocacy groups spanning the political spectrum who are calling on Congress to prohibit the use of QALYs and other discriminatory measures.”

BANNING QALYs 

“This legislation, the Protecting Health Care for All Patients Act, bans federal payers, like Medicaid and VA Health Care, from using QALYs or other discriminatory measures that devalue the lives of people with disabilities and chronic or rare diseases, and it does this by simply applying the current ban on QALYs and other similar measures that exists in Medicare to all federal payers.

“In passing this bill, it will mean that health care bureaucracies can no longer discriminate against the weakest and most vulnerable patients, and it will help ensure that people can get the health care that they and their doctors think best.

“This would be a big deal.

“Medicaid is the largest payer for people with disabilities, and we are letting it use measures that discriminate against the very people that it was designed to support.

“And that’s to say nothing of the millions of injured or disabled veterans who rely on the VA for their health care, which is also allowed to use these types of measures.

“However, let me be clear in this, H.R. 485 does not prohibit federal health care programs from rewarding value or finding other ways to hold down costs.

“For example, if a treatment does not work or shouldn’t be covered, or it’s more appropriate to start with other, more cost-effective treatments first.

“Nothing in this bill will preclude federal payers from continuing to make these kinds of coverage decisions.

“In fact, the National Council on Disability has already identified alternative ways to measure value that do not devalue the life of someone with a disability or chronic disease.”

GIVING HOPE

“Because of Cole, I’ve spent much time in Congress as an ability advocate—encouraging people to focus on every individual’s God-given talent and potential.

“Millions of Americans like Cole need their voices to be heard.

“Whenever I meet with someone with a disability or chronic illness, or with their family, I hear the same thing over and over again.

“They want the same chances to succeed in life as everyone else.

“I hope that banning the use of discriminatory measures by federal payers against people with disabilities and chronic illness—and affirming every person’s life has value—is something can come together on.

“Let’s give people with disabilities, rare diseases, or chronic illness HOPE. 

“I urge support on this important legislation.”

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