Burgess in the News

McMorris Rodgers, Burgess, Wenstrup unveil Protecting Health Care for All Patients Act

By: Ripon Advance News Service

U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), and Michael Burgess (R-TX) recently introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of the quality-adjusted life year (QALY) in all federal programs — an expansion from the current prohibition that only applies in a limited fashion to the Medicare program. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, the QALY is a measure of the value of health outcomes. Since health is a function of length of life and quality of life, the QALY was developed as an attempt to combine the value of these attributes into a single index number.

However, the lawmakers say the controversial QALY metric devalues treatments for disabled individuals and those with chronic illnesses for purposes of determining whether the treatment is cost-effective enough to be paid for by the federal government, and they say the use of QALY is a form of discrimination. 

“The [QALY] measurement is used to discriminate against people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, like cystic fibrosis, ALS, or Down syndrome, putting them at the back of the line for treatment,” said U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair McMorris Rodgers. “Moving this legislation will be a priority for our committee.”  

Rep. McMorris Rodgers on Jan. 24 sponsored the Protecting Health Care for All Patients Act, H.R. 485, with Reps. Wenstrup and Burgess signing on as original cosponsors. The bill would expand access to life-saving cures and prevent discrimination against Americans with disabilities, and prohibit the importation of price-controls from countries that use QALYs, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers. 

“All lives are worth living. It’s unconscionable that a health care bureaucracy would so callously determine that someone’s life is worth less,” the congresswoman said. “They deserve every chance to have hope and reach their full potential.”

As a practicing OB/GYN for nearly 30 years before being elected to Congress, Rep. Burgess called the QALY measurements “cruel” and said they inhibit physicians’ ability to care for and treat all patients with dignity. “The government should never have the ability to decide the value of a life to approve or deny care,” he said. “All human life has inherent value and should be treated as such.”

Patients Rising, the Epilepsy Foundation, the Alliance for Aging Research, National Right to Life, and the Independent Women’s Voice endorsed H.R. 485.

“I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce legislation that stops the use of QALY in federal programs,” Rep. Wenstrup said. “QALY measurements put a dollar value on a person’s life, often devaluing the lives of those with chronic illnesses and disabilities. As a physician, I believe it is vitally important that our healthcare system values all lives and ensures that every person is treated with dignity.”