Idaho sued for using rationed medical care, says it discriminates against older people

Justice in Aging, an advocacy group for the elderly, has called on the US Department of Health and Human Services to investigate Idaho’s healthcare rationing plan, saying it discriminates against the older people, The Associated Press reported.

Crisis care standards, activated in Idaho this month amid a wave of COVID-19, are designed as guidelines for directing scarce resources, like ventilators, to patients most likely to to survive.

Justice in Aging says Idaho’s crisis standards are ageist because they use a patient’s age as a tie-off if two similar patients need the same resources.

“Seniors face a serious risk of discrimination, resulting in death,” because of Idaho’s crisis standards, Justice for Aging lawyers wrote in their letter of complaint.

For more Associated Press reporting, see below.

An advocacy group for the elderly says Idaho’s crisis standards are ageist, as the age of patients is used to determine whether they will receive scarce resources. Above, a counter-protester walks through an unmasked crowd during a mask-burning event at the Idaho Statehouse on March 6, 2021, in Boise. (Photo by Nathan Howard / Getty Images)

Lawyers for Justice in Aging wrote to Robinsue Frohboese, acting director of the Civil Rights Bureau of the Civil Rights Bureau of Health and Human Services, that “the decisive language in Idaho is not limited to situations where it there are large age differences between the two people in need of care. be applied in situations where there may be very little difference, such as a 60 year old male and a 61 year old male. “

The letter added: “When they are so clinically similar as to require a tie-breaker, it would lead to an absurd and ageist result to deny the 61-year-old man treatment simply because he has only one thing. ‘a year more.”

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Greg Stahl said on Friday that the department was not aware of the complaint.

“The Patient Care Strategies for Resource-Scarce Situations document is grounded in ethical obligations that include the duty to care, the duty to manage resources, distributive and procedural justice, and transparency,” Stahl wrote. in an email to AP.

“It is the guiding principle that all lives have a value and that no patient will be discriminated against on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, age, position. sex, sex or the exercise of conscience and religion. “

Other states have faced similar complaints in recent months. Since the start of the pandemic, public health officials in Arizona, Utah and North Texas have changed their crisis care plans amid complaints from Justice in Aging and other advocacy organizations rights of persons with disabilities and civil rights.

Idaho’s standards also include a “sequential organ failure assessment” or “SOFA” score to help physicians determine the likelihood of a patient surviving illness or injury.

The score takes into account the functioning of the main organ systems of the patients. But attorneys for Justice for Aging say recent studies by researchers at Yale University indicate it’s not an accurate measure of survival in black adult patients.

Using age as a tiebreaker violates the Federal Age Discrimination Act of 1975 and the Affordable Care Act, said Regan Bailey, director of litigation for Justice for Aging.

Individual patient ratings in the guidelines already take into account the impact of aging on the human body, Bailey said, and using it again as a baseline is essentially doubling age at the expense of older patients.

“We want the state not to include age as a stand-alone factor,” and stepping away from SOFA scores, Bailey. “We are concerned about the continued reliance on a tool that has proven to disproportionately take black people away from life-saving care.”

Several entities were involved in the development of Idaho’s crisis plan, including a Disaster Medical Advisory Committee, the Board of Medicine, the Idaho State Independent Living Council, officials from the Attorney General’s office of the ‘Idaho and the Department of Health and Welfare, Stahl said. So far, tiebreakers have not been used in Idaho, he said.

“The need for a tie-breaker should be very rare,” Stahl wrote.

The number of coronaviruses in Idaho continued to rise, leading to record hospitalization rates. And the state’s coronavirus vaccination rates remain among the lowest in the country, with only about 51% of eligible residents fully vaccinated.

Hospitals and healthcare providers struggle to treat everyone, with new patients sometimes staying on stretchers for days as doctors desperately try to find enough beds and other resources.

Hospital officials have also reported that the mechanical systems their hospitals use to deliver oxygen to hospital rooms are also struggling to keep up with the high demand from the massive influx of COVID-19 patients.

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, more than 760 coronavirus patients were hospitalized statewide, including 202 people in intensive care unit beds.