February 10, 2009
Critics of the new economic stimulus bill Congress is considering are concerned that, buried in it, is a new plan for rationed health care. Betsy McCaughey, the former Lt. Governor of New York, has written a widely circulated editorial with the analysis.
Rationed health care is not a new fear for the pro-life movement.
The British government has been condemned for years for its nationalized health care system which puts off important surgeries and other health care for patients.
If instituted in the United States, pro-life advocates have been concerned it could lead to the denial of lifesaving medical treatment or euthanasia of patients.
McCaughey, an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, says the rationing provisions “reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle,” who was the former nominee for the Health Secretary before he withdrew his name over a tax scandal.
The stimulus bill includes health rules to have medical treatments tracked electronically by a federal system to help reduce duplicate tests and errors.
But it goes further by establishing a new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, that monitors treatments, as McCaughey says, “to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective.”
“The goal is to reduce costs and ‘guide’ your doctor’s decisions,” she explains. “These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book” where ‘doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.’”
The bill calls for penalties for doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system — a term the new Health Secretary will define.
“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,” McCaughey writes in an editorial condemning the measure.
What is the point of these new regulations?
“The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs,” McCaughey writes. “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.”
‘Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt,” according to Daschle.
“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,” McCaughey writes.
The bill’s provisions are based on the UK system, where cost is more important than treatment and medical care. That has required patients to put off care until their conditions worsen.
“If the Obama administration’s economic stimulus bill passes the Senate in its current form, seniors in the U.S. will face similar rationing,” McCaughey writes.
This isn’t the first time a health care rationing plan has been proposed and pro-life advocates, led by National Right to Life bioethics director Burke Balch, were able to defeat the plan President Clinton put forward.
“Hiding health legislation in a stimulus bill is intentional,” McCaughey said. “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,” Daschle said. “The issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol.”
Ultimately, McCaughey says members of Congress need to pause and reflect on these provisions and Americans need to let their elected officials know their opinions about them.
“In truth, this bill needs more scrutiny,” she concludes. “The bill treats health care the way European governments do: as a cost problem instead of a growth industry. This stimulus is dangerous to your health and the economy.”