Dr. Stephen Ryter, medical director of Blue Cross of Idaho, a pediatrician, told the Legislature’s Health Care Task Force, “We are No. 50 out of 50, as far as immunizations go.” He said, “People don’t think these diseases exist any more.” Yet, he said, “I’ve had a number of my patients die of meningitis.” When most of the population is immunized against serious diseases, the incidence of those diseases goes way down due to the phenomenon of “herd immunity,” Ryter told the lawmakers. “As we get lower and lower in our rates, we lose the effect of ‘herd immunity.’”
Blue Cross tried to set up a purchasing cooperative with the state when funding was cut for child immunizations, to allow at least those with Blue Cross insurance to still get vaccines that were purchased through a federal-state purchasing pool, which cuts their cost by 30 to 50 percent. “The group purchasing cooperative was a good idea,” Ryter said. “We were just shocked and disappointed when the bids came in.” There was only one valid bid, and it was actually higher than just buying the vaccines on the open market. “There has to be some kind of a fix for this, so that we can have a single supply,” Ryter said, “… improve our rates and have a net lower cost.” Task Force Co-Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, thanked Blue Cross for trying, even though it didn’t work out.
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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