There is no vaccine to prevent RSV infections, but there has been one treatment available proven to work well to lessen the chances of infection for premature babies. A drug called Synagis has been shown in studies to reduce the risk of hospitalization from RSV in babies born prematurely, if it is administered prophylactically during the RSV season. But the drug is expensive -- according to the Wall Street Journal, about $6000 for five intramuscular inoculations. The AAP has now recommended that the drug be injected less frequently and to a smaller group of premature infants in the interests of cutting health care costs.
As a result many insurance companies won't pay for prevention beyond the lower recommendations, nor will government-provided health care programs.
Everyone would like to see costs go down in health care. But cutting costs can also mean shortening lives. Even when denial of preventive treatment doesn't end up with the patient dying, it still may be a failure at cutting costs. According to one study, hospitalizations for RSV were reduced by 50 percent with the administration of Synagis -- and one day in the hospital costs considerably more than a full course of preventive treatment.
The AAP recommendations on preventive RSV treatments -- which were reissued last year, without any new research to back them up -- are a glimpse into the future of health care under the Affordable Care Act. The only way to cut costs is through some system of rationing. This years victims may be premature babies, but eventually all of us will end up with less care than we want -- and in many cases need.
Linda Chavez is the author of "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal." To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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