One of the biggest problems with the health care systems of countries across the globe is discrimination. People with disabilities are particularly at risk for health care rationing, and that problem has only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the United States, as governments work to reopen the country in phases, Senator Ben Sasse is introducing legislation with the hope of protecting people with disabilities from continuing discrimination.
In a statement sent to Live Action News, Sasse noted an April investigation from the Center for Public Integrity. They found that care-rationing policies in numerous states can lead to people with disabilities being denied ventilators and other life-saving treatment. While the Department of Health and Human Services issued a bulletin warning states not to discriminate, Sasse said it was not enough.
“In a shocking number of states, Americans with disabilities can be sent to the back of the line for ventilators. That’s abhorrent,” he said in his statement. “Human dignity matters, and disabilities like Down syndrome don’t undermine the right to life. Congress can’t re-write state laws, but we can regulate the Strategic National Stockpile of ventilators. As Congress takes up Phase Four legislation, we have a moral obligation to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities.”
Sasse has since introduced a new bill that will ensure people with disabilities cannot be discriminated against when health care providers decide who gets emergency medical treatment.
“A just society is measured by how we treat the most vulnerable, and now is the time for Congress to step up,” Sasse told the Center for Public Integrity. “Americans with disabilities shouldn’t be pushed to the back of the line.”
States determined by the Department of Health and Human Services to have been discriminating against persons with disabilities will be blocked from receiving resources, like ventilators, from the Strategic National Stockpile, according to the bill.
Even outside of the pandemic, people with disabilities are routinely discriminated against in various health care scenarios such as organ transplants.
Nicole Jorwic, senior director of public policy for The Arc, a disability rights group, responded positively to the legislation. “We are grateful for the recognition by a legislator that no treatment for COVID-19 should be withheld or limited by a person’s disability,” Jorwic said. “We’re very grateful to see this is showing up as an issue that matters to both Republicans and Democrats in the face of a pandemic because disability is a nonpartisan issue.”
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