Tuesday, July 26, 2005

NYC proposes to track diabetics

New York City health officials have proposed a system that would track diabetics to ensure that they adequately control their blood glucose levels. The plan would require medical labs to report to the city the results of A1c tests, which indicate blood glucose control over 3-4 months.

A patient who fails to control his/her diabetes is subject to complications ranging from Kidney failure and blindness to loss of circulation in the extremities often leading to amputation. Diabetes costs an estimated $5 billion a year to treat in New York and was the fourth leading cause of death in the city in 2003, killing 1,891. Nationally, diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It afflicts about 18.2 million Americans.

The argument put forward by those supporting the plan, including the American Diabetes Association, is that it would allow doctors better access to medical information especially among patients who frequently switch doctors, that it would allow the city Department of Health or individual physicians to follow up with patients who miss appointments, and that it would save the city millions by preventing complications of the disease.

These are all interesting arguments that have some merit. However, none overcomes an individual’s constitutional right to privacy and establishes a dangerous precedent for state intervention in the treatment of all types of health issues.

Perhaps NYC could also create a national database that forces everyone over the mean weight to report their 3-month average weight to the state? How about every individual being required to report his/her cholesterol levels if s/he has a family history of heart disease?

There are countless medical conditions that left untreated result in severe complications, including death. The government needs to work to ensure individuals understand the effects of not controlling their conditions and to ensure that every individual has access to health care and prescription drugs. It does not need to create a data base that monitors an individual's health status.


At 3:39 PM, Blogger Elliot Essman said...

Want to over-govern? Pick and choose an issue where you can quantify the financial benefit. The danger of picking and choosing diabetics is clear: it's arbitrary. It's a perfect example of a "general welfare" issue that is not within the purview of government. This would be a terrible precedent.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Scott said...

The dire statistics cited by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (the sponsor of this big-government plan) are, how do I say this, selective disclosure of the truth. Although diabetes does cost an estimated $5 billion a year to treat in New York, the reality is that virtually all of this cost is bourne by private medical insurance or the federal government's medicare and medicaid plans. NYC has a budget of less than $950,000 allocated towards diabetes. Now, do we need any more evidence against the "spin doctors" running the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene?


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