In October the Center for Medicare reported about Utah’s inclusion of an age-based “tie-breaker” in its “Crisis Standards of Care.” These standards guide medical providers when they are forced to ration life-saving treatment, such as the use of ICU care or ventilators. At the time, Utah hospitals were becoming overwhelmed by a surge of COVID-19 patients. Now, they have been stretched even thinner, with “informal rationing” of care already starting.
The Center for Medicare Advocacy joined Justice in Aging’s efforts to oppose the inclusion of an unlawfully discriminatory “tie-breaker,” based solely on the patient’s age, in Utah’s Crisis Standards of Care. We are pleased that the state has now removed that arbitrary provision and revised its “tie-breaker” guidelines.
Resources are now to be triaged based on clinical factors that emphasize prospects for short-term survival, followed by random allocation if necessary. The revised standards also expressly prohibit discrimination based on age and other factors such as race, disability, or sex. While it is tragic that these crisis standards may have to be used, Utah’s revisions help ensure the equitable treatment of COVID-19 patients. This is particularly important for older adults, who have borne the worst effects of the pandemic and should not be devalued based solely on their age.
Other resources on COVID-19 care rationing and opposition to age- or disability-based discrimination: