Apr 03, 2020

AARP: Rationing of Health Care is Not the Answer

AARP, the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older, has weighed into a debate about health care rationing as states and hospitals consider what to do if the number of critically ill coronavirus patients exceeds capacity. The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action is an initiative of AARP Foundation and AARP, along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“This virus doesn’t discriminate, and neither should those entrusted with deciding who gets access to health care to treat it,” said Nancy A. LeaMond, AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer. “Using age or disability to categorically exclude people from accessing treatment would be discriminatory, and AARP opposes it. Policymakers must take action now to avoid putting patients, families and health care professionals in the untenable position of having to ration health care.”

States and hospitals working on plans on how to ration care if difficult choices must be made about treating critically ill patients who outnumber beds or equipment has sparked a debate on the ethics.

Many of those plans reportedly consider stage of life as a factor in assigning ventilators or critical care beds, and some also include age.

Last week the civil rights office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it was opening a series of investigations “to ensure that states did not allow medical providers to discriminate on the basis of disabilities, race, age or certain other factors when deciding who would receive lifesaving medical care during the coronavirus emergency,” according to the New York Times.

AARP agrees.

“AARP has called for increased capacity in the health care system and the speedy deployment of medical equipment, protective gear and services to those on the front lines of this crisis. In addition, each one of us must take the preventive measures outlined by the CDC and state and local public health agencies to forestall the spread of this virus,” LeaMond said in the statement. “Those entrusted with making care decisions should be guided by current science and the prognosis and clinical needs of individual patients. They must be open and transparent with how decisions are being made and they should consider issues like health disparities to ensure low-income and minority populations are not disproportionately harmed.”

“We are stronger and more effective when we are working together, not creating divisions. It is a time for all of us to be our best selves and pull together to defeat this common enemy,” AARP said in its statement.