Jim DeMint refuses to help doc get federal funding for medical breakthrough
The good doctor was frustrated.
Dr. David Cull, a prominent vascular surgeon in Greenville, S.C., had invented a small valve system that could spare 300,000 dialysis patients across the country enormous suffering — and save American taxpayers billions of dollars in Medicare costs.
Yet, Cull’s hometown senator, Jim DeMint, refused to write a letter supporting the surgeon’s application for a federal grant under the landmark health care bill that President Barack Obama signed into law a year ago this week.
As a hardcore conservative with a growing national following, DeMint opposes most federal spending.
Backing a doctor’s grant application under the law — even from a constituent who lives in the same city as DeMint — would leave the senator open to charges of hypocrisy.
And DeMint, who vowed in 2009 to make health care Obama’s “Waterloo,” is leading Republican efforts in Congress to repeal the law to provide medical coverage to 31 million uninsured Americans — or, if that can’t be done, to deny it funding.
“Senator DeMint opposed President Obama’s government takeover of health care because he believed it would lead to higher insurance premiums, less choices for patients, and that it was unconstitutional,” said DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton. “And that’s exactly what has happened, and why ObamaCare must be repealed.”
Cull’s valve system would replace a plastic stent that’s been used for a half-century for patients with acute kidney failure.
Once inserted under the skin, blood flows through the tiny tube all the time, even though a kidney patient undergoes dialysis only nine hours a week on average.
The constant blood flow causes numerous painful complications, among them circulation impairment, clot formation, gangrene, finger ulcers and severe arm swelling.
A typical dialysis patient will undergo 10 to 12 operations over a lifetime to treat the complications, with 1 million performed each year — all paid for by Medicare.
With dialysis one of the few medical conditions covered by Medicare regardless of a patient’s age, such surgeries cost taxpayers one-fifth — $15,000 — of the $75,000 a year the federal program pays per person with acute kidney failure.
Cull’s valve system, by contrast, can be closed when not used for dialysis, cutting off the blood flow and thus decreasing or even eliminating the costly and painful complications.
The grant Cull got from the federal government supplements money from private investors.
“This is money that, in my view, was very well spent,” he said of the grant. “If our valve doesn’t work, the government will have lost $250,000. If it does work, they will have saved a gazillion dollars.”
So somehow one petty person’s political beliefs far outweigh potentially saving people undue pain? Did I get that right?