Mona Charen

I labeled it "Health Care Overhaul IV" for convenience. In fact, a new 2,000-page behemoth seems to emerge more than once a week from the maw of Congress, so it's becoming impossible to keep track.

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Until now, my reasons for opposing this fright mask were entirely dispassionate and flowed from 1) common sense (how are they going to provide more care for less money, and can we afford another huge entitlement when existing ones are going bankrupt?); 2) experience (government entitlements always cost far more than projections and government is far less efficient at providing services than the private sector); and 3) philosophy (the way to reduce prices is to increase competition -- not reduce it). But now the proposals being considered will hit my family particularly hard. This time, it's personal.

In order to pay for its new entitlement, the Senate Finance Committee bill (Baucus) proposes to tax medical device manufacturers $40 billion over the next 10 years. To the average person, medical device manufacturers may not mean much. They produce heart monitors, stents, and pacemakers.

They also produce insulin pumps. My 16-year-old son, who has had Type I diabetes (an autoimmune disease distinct from Type II) since the age of 9, depends on a pump to live a reasonably normal life. If he didn't have an insulin pump -- a device the size of a cell phone that delivers insulin through a tube directly under his skin -- he would be required to give himself as many as four injections a day, as he did before he got the pump. And his life expectancy would be shorter.

In just the six years since David began using the pump, the technology has improved markedly. Whereas he used to have to insert the catheter (which must be changed every three days) with a 2-inch needle, he now uses a much less painful spring-operated inserter. The programming has become more sophisticated as well. The pump can now deliver carefully calibrated doses for high-carb foods like pizza and ice cream -- foods that are otherwise parlous for diabetics to enjoy -- and the pump is preset with carb counts for many common foods.

Insulin pumps provide better blood sugar control than other diabetes treatments. But they are far from perfect. Even careful users will frequently experience highs (which increase the likelihood of long-term complications like heart disease and blindness) and lows (which can be immediately life-threatening).

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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