NYT, Heal Thyself

The Times worries that health insurance plans may not cover a new cancer therapy - but if the Times was in charge of health care, would there be any new kinds of therapies developed for insurance to cover?

The Times has definitely hit on a real dilemma in Wednesday's off-lead story by Andrew Pollack, "Insurance Lags As Cancer Care Comes in a Pill." Pollack examined how a new treatment for cancer that comes in pill form isn't covered by insurance, the way chemotherapy is.

Chuck Stauffer'sinsurancecovered the surgery to remove hisbrain tumor. It covered his brain scans. And it would have paid fully for tens of thousands of dollars of intravenouschemotherapyat a doctor's office or hospital.

But his insurance covered hardly any of the cost of thecancerpills the doctor prescribed for him to take at home. Mr. Stauffer, a 62-year-old Oregon farmer, had to pay $5,500 for the first 42-day supply of the drug, Temodar, and $1,700 a month after that.

"Because it was a pill," he said, "I had to pay - not the insurance."

Pills and capsules are the new wave in cancer treatment, expected to account for 25 percent of all cancer medicines in a few years, up from less than 10 percent now.

But the paper protests too much. If health care was left up to the Times, there may not be any new procedures like cancer pills at all - too costly or risky. The paper has issued no less than four front-page storiesover the lastnine months that one way or another have pushed for limits on health care choices (including in cancer care)in the name of cost savings or excessive riskiness.