Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan
(Bloomberg) — Republican Senators are questioning
whether President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill contains the
right mix of tax breaks and cash infusions to jump-start the
Tragically, no one from either party is objecting to the
health provisions slipped in without discussion. These
provisions reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle, until recently
the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department. Senators should read these provisions and vote against them
because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer
to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version).
The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in
the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments
will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having
electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily
transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid
duplicate tests and errors.
But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the
National Coordinator of Health Information
Technology, will monitor treatments 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 (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus
bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his
2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care
Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy
and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”
Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is
important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.
Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of
the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” isn’t
defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who
will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of
meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)
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.
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.”
More Scrutiny Needed
On Friday, President Obama called it “inexcusable and
irresponsible” for senators to delay passing the stimulus bill.
In truth, this bill needs more scrutiny.
The health-care industry is the largest employer in the
U.S. It produces almost 17 percent of the nation’s gross
domestic product. Yet the bill treats health care the way
European governments do: as a cost problem instead of a growth
industry. Imagine limiting growth and innovation in
the electronics or auto industry during this downturn. This
stimulus is dangerous to your health and the economy.
(Betsy McCaughey is former lieutenant governor of New York
and is an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The
opinions expressed are her own.)
I hope Ms. McCaughey is wrong or that there is some misunderstanding. Here is a another view that claims Betsy McCaughney is mistaken – Media Matters
Can anyone help clear up the confusion?