There Ain’t No Free Lunch On Health Care

Quite understandably, there has been furor over some of the health care provisions that the Obama Administration bizarrely slipped into the Stimulus bill.

What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.

The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system.

Elderly Hardest Hit

Daschle says health-care reform “will not be pain free.” Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.

Medicare now pays for treatments deemed safe and effective. The stimulus bill would change that and apply a cost- effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council (464).

The Federal Council is modeled after a U.K. board discussed in Daschle’s book. This board approves or rejects treatments using a formula that divides the cost of the treatment by the number of years the patient is likely to benefit. Treatments for younger patients are more often approved than treatments for diseases that affect the elderly, such as osteoporosis.

In 2006, a U.K. health board decreed that elderly patients with macular degeneration had to wait until they went blind in one eye before they could get a costly new drug to save the other eye. It took almost three years of public protests before the board reversed its decision.

Hidden Provisions

If the Obama administration’s economic stimulus bill passes the Senate in its current form, seniors in the U.S. will face similar rationing. Defenders of the system say that individuals benefit in younger years and sacrifice later.

The stimulus bill will affect every part of health care, from medical and nursing education, to how patients are treated and how much hospitals get paid. The bill allocates more funding for this bureaucracy than for the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force combined (90-92, 174-177, 181).

Hiding health legislation in a stimulus bill is intentional. Daschle supported the Clinton administration’s health-care overhaul in 1994, and attributed its failure to debate and delay. A year ago, Daschle wrote that the next president should act quickly before critics mount an opposition. “If that means attaching a health-care plan to the federal budget, so be it,” he said. “The issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol.”

Change: Having government bureacrats issue death sentences for senior citizens — and make no mistake about it, if this article from Bloomberg is correct, that’s what we’re talking about here.

We’re talking about a 70 year old grandmother being told that there’s a treatment that may save her life and a government bureaucrat denying her that treatment on the grounds that she’s too old to be worth spending the money that’s needed to save her life.

Is that immoral, wrong, evil, vile — not necessarily. Not the answer you expected to hear, right? Now, don’t misread me. That is not a “Yes, we should start doing that.” I DO NOT, let me repeat, DO NOT, support rationing care or denying people life saving treatments because of their age. However, I do think it’s worth realistically considering that option because it helps give people a true understanding of the choices we’re making as a society that are driving up the cost of our health care.

Let me explain.

First off, there are a lot of complaints about the cost of our health care system. Well, one of the biggest reasons it costs so much is that we spend extraordinary amounts of money on people who are very old, very sick, and have a very small chance of recovering. Just to give you a real world example, here are Tony Blankley’s comments from my interview with him,

I think that what has happened in the last 30 or 40 years is that we have not forgotten at all what rights we have — whether it’s the right to be a 96 year old and get comprehensive health care subsidized by our fellow citizens in the last months of our lives….I just went through, with my dad, he had been healthy until he was 92, never had a dollar’s expense for himself or the government, but in the last three years of his life, God only knows how many hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent between Medicare, insurance, our out of pocket — to keep a man who had been vigorous, but lost that vigor, alive for just a few more months.

Because the government is extremely slow, stupid, and inefficient compared to the private sector — if we have the type of socialized medicine that Barack Obama wants, the level of wasted money in our health care system will explode. That means something will have to give and these hard choices we’ve avoided making will be thrust upon us.

In order to keep costs down, either we’ll have to make people wait for months for treatments they can get quickly today, the newest medical technology will be harder to get, medical standards will slip, people will have to be denied treatment that may save their lives — or we’ll have to do all those things.

There is no free lunch on health care or anything else — and people should really think about that before they make decisions today that will have tremendous ramifications down the line — when you are old, weak, and sick in a hospital filled with people who, if liberals like Barack Obama and Tom Daschle have their way, will be unable to help you.

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