Civil rights complaint targets Idaho health care rationing

Sep 24, 2021, 1:15 AM | Updated: 2:12 pm
FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2021, file photo, a registered nurse holds the hand of a COVID-19 patient i...

FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2021, file photo, a registered nurse holds the hand of a COVID-19 patient in the Medical Intensive care unit (MICU) at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. An advocacy group for seniors has filed a civil rights complaint against Idaho over the state's "crisis standards of care" guidelines for hospitals overwhelmed during the coronavirus pandemic. Justice in Aging wants the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate Idaho's health care rationing plan, contending that it discriminates against older adults by using factors like age in prioritizing which patients may get access to life-saving care. (AP Photo/Kyle Green, File)

(AP Photo/Kyle Green, File)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An advocacy group for older adults has filed a civil rights complaint against Idaho over the state’s “crisis standards of care” guidelines for hospitals that are overwhelmed by patients amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The group Justice in Aging asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday to investigate Idaho’s health care rationing plan — contending it discriminates against older adults and especially older Black and Native American adults by using factors like age in prioritizing which patients may get access to life-saving care.

“Older adults are facing serious risk of discrimination, resulting in death,” because of Idaho’s crisis standards, Justice for Aging attorneys wrote in their complaint letter.

Other states have faced similar complaints in recent months. Since the pandemic began, public health officials in Arizona, Utah and northern Texas have modified their crisis care plans amid complaints from Justice in Aging and other disability rights and civil rights organizations.

Idaho activated crisis standards of care earlier this month after a surge of COVID-19 patients exhausted the resources available in most Idaho hospitals.

Crisis care standards are designed as ethical and legal guidelines for health care rationing, directing scarce resources like intensive care unit beds or ventilators to patients most likely to survive. If there is a shortage of resources, other patients may be treated with less effective methods or, in dire cases, given pain relief and other palliative care.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Greg Stahl said Friday that the department was unaware of the complaint.

“The Patient Care Strategies for Scarce Resource Situations document is grounded in ethical obligations that include the duty to care, duty to steward resources, distributive and procedural justice, and transparency,” Stahl wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “It’s guiding principal is that all lives have value and no patients will be discriminated against on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, age, sex, gender or exercise of conscience and religion.”

But Justice in Aging said that the standards discriminate by using patients’ remaining “life-years” as a tiebreaker if two generally similar patients need the same resources.

“The tiebreaker language in Idaho is not limited to situations where there are large age differences between the two people needing care. By its terms, it would be applied in situations where there may be very little difference, such as a 60-year-old man and a 61-year-old man,” Justice in Aging’s attorneys wrote to Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights Acting Director Robinsue Frohboese.

The letter added: “When they are so clinically similar as to require a tie-breaker, this would lead to absurd and ageist result of denying care to the 61-year-old man simply because he is as little as one year older.”

Idaho’s standards also a “Sequential Organ Failure Assessment” or “SOFA” score to help doctors determine patients’ likelihood of surviving an illness or injury.

The score considers how well patients’ major organ systems are functioning. But Justice for Aging attorneys say recent studies from Yale University researchers indicate it is not an accurate measure of survival for Black adult patients.

Using age as a tie-breaker violates the federal Age Discrimination Act of 1975 and the Affordable Care Act, said Justice for Aging litigation director Regan Bailey.

The individual patient assessments in the guidelines already account for the impact aging has on the human body, Bailey said, and using it again as a tie-breaker essentially amounts to double-counting age to the detriment of older patients.

“We want the state to not include age as a stand-alone factor,” and to move away from SOFA scores, Bailey. “We’re concerned with the continued reliance on a tool that’s been shown to disproportionately steer Black people away from life-saving care.”

Several entities were involved in crafting Idaho’s crisis plan, including a Disaster Medical Advisory Committee, the Board of Medicine, Idaho State Independent Living Council, officials from the Idaho Attorney General’s office and the Department of Health and Welfare, Stahl said. So far, the tie-breakers haven’t been used in Idaho, he said.

“The need for tiebreaker criteria is expected to be very rare,” Stahl wrote.

Idaho’s coronavirus numbers have continued to surge, leading to record-high hospitalization rates. And the state’s coronavirus vaccination rates remain among the lowest in the nation, with only about 51% of eligible residents fully vaccinated.

Hospitals and health care providers are struggling to treat everyone, with new patients sometimes staying on gurneys for days as doctors desperately try to find enough beds and other resources.

Hospital officials have also reported that the mechanical systems their hospitals use for delivering oxygen into hospital rooms is also struggling to keep up with the high demand from the massive influx of COVID-19 patients.

There were more than 760 coronavirus patients hospitalized statewide as of Sept. 20, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, including 202 people in intensive care unit beds.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - This Wednesday, March 31, 2021 file photo shows empty vials of Johnson & Johnson's one-dose ...
Associated Press

COVID vaccine: CDC expands booster rollout, OKs mixing shots

WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions more Americans can get a COVID-19 booster and choose a different company’s vaccine for that next shot, federal health officials said Thursday. Certain people who received Pfizer vaccinations months ago already are eligible for a booster and now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says specific Moderna and Johnson & […]
21 hours ago
Hairdresser Caroline Shamoon of Joey Scandizzo Salon works on a client's hair in Melbourne, Friday,...
Associated Press

Qantas moves up flights as Australia expects tourists soon

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Qantas Airways on Friday brought forward its plans to restart international travel from Sydney as Prime Minister Scott Morrison predicted tourists would be welcomed back to Australia this year. Vaccinated Australian permanent residents and citizens will be free to travel through Sydney from Nov. 1 without the need for hotel quarantine […]
21 hours ago
FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2021, file photo, a security guard stands at the headquarters of China Everg...
Associated Press

Report: Struggling Chinese developer makes bond payment

BEIJING (AP) — A troubled Chinese developer whose struggle to avoid a multibillion-dollar debt default has rattled global financial markets wired $83.5 million on Friday to make an overdue payment to foreign bondholders, a government newspaper reported. Evergrande Group’s struggle to reduce its 2 trillion yuan ($310 billion) of debt to comply with tighter official […]
21 hours ago
President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall at the Baltimore Center Stage Pearlstone Theate...
Associated Press

AP FACT CHECK: Biden overstates his record on COVID vaccine

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden botched the numbers behind the COVID-19 vaccine rollout Thursday as he stretched to take all the credit for the surge of shots once he was in office. A look at his remarks during a CNN town hall event: COVID BIDEN: “When I first was elected, there were only 2 […]
21 hours ago
FILE - In this May 25, 2021, file photo, Nissan's former chairman Carlos Ghosn speaks during an int...
Associated Press

Nissan ex-chair Ghosn set on restoring reputation

TOKYO (AP) — Carlos Ghosn, the former auto industry superstar whose career screeched to a halt with his arrest three years ago, isn’t about to settle into quiet retirement. The former head of the Nissan-Renault alliance fled to Lebanon in late 2019, while out on bail facing financial misconduct charges in Japan. In a recent […]
21 hours ago
A man lies still as devotees light oil lamps over his body as part of rituals to celebrate the tent...
Associated Press

AP Week in Pictures: Asia

Oct. 8-14, 2021 This photo gallery highlights some of the most compelling images made or published by Associated Press photographers in Asia and Pacific. The gallery was curated by AP photo editor Masayo Yoshida in Tokyo. Follow AP visual journalism: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/apnews AP Images on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP_Images AP Images blog: http://apimagesblog.com Copyright © The Associated […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Civil rights complaint targets Idaho health care rationing