An unhealthy commitment to ideological ends

AN UNHEALTHY COMMITMENT TO IDEOLOGICAL ENDS…. At first blush, this sounds like a great American success story. A creative American physician comes up with an invention that can save lives and money, and looks for available grants to help bolster his innovation. The doctor runs into trouble, though, when his Republican senator has different priorities.

Welcome to Jim DeMint’s version of America. (thanks to R.P. for the tip)

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. […]

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 really, what’s more important? Saving lives and money, or one strange senator’s politics?

Regardless of what Republicans think of the Affordable Care Act, there are grants available to medical professionals. Officials, regardless of ideology, should want more innovation that leads to better and more affordable care for American consumers, and lawmakers would presumably want that work done in their states and districts, rather than somewhere else.

But that’s not what Jim DeMint wants. The goal isn’t to make a stronger, healthier system; the goal is to crush Democratic efforts.

In this case, DeMint’s constituent, Dr. David Cull, is ready to start clinical trials on what he’s labeled his Hemoaccess Valve System. Fortunately, Cull was able to get nearly $250,000 in federal funding for his research through the Obama administration — taking advantage of a project aimed at encouraging cutting-edge biomedical research — but he had to work around his own senator’s opposition.

“It’s a good sound bite on Fox News, but he’s looking at it so simplistically,” Cull said. “He’s completely ignoring the huge (possible) savings.”

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.”

But DeMint doesn’t want to save a gazillion dollars; he wants to wallow in a rigid right-wing ideological agenda. The senator isn’t looking for better care at a lower price; he’s looking for a presidential “Waterloo.”