NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

THE HEALTH BILL IS SCARY

December 17, 2009

When government attempts to practice medicine: Doctors respond to government coercion instead of patient cues, and patients die prematurely.  Even if the public option is eliminated from the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) health care reform bill, these onerous rationing provisions will remain intact, says Dr. Tom Coburn, a physician and a Republican senator from Oklahoma.

For instance:

  • The Reid bill (in sections 3403 and 2021) explicitly empowers Medicare to deny treatment based on cost.
  • An Independent Medicare Advisory Board created by the bill -- composed of permanent, unelected and, therefore, unaccountable members -- will greatly expand the rationing practices that already occur in the program.
  • Medicare, for example, has limited cancer patients' access to Epogen, a costly but vital drug that stimulates red blood cell production.
  • It has limited the use of virtual, and safer, colonoscopies due to cost concerns.
  • And Medicare refuses medical claims at twice the rate of the largest private insurers.

There's more:

  • Section 6301 of the Reid bill creates new comparative effectiveness research (CER) programs.
  • CER panels have been used as rationing commissions in other countries such as the United Kingdom, where 15,000 cancer patients die prematurely every year according to the National Cancer Intelligence Network.
  • CER panels here could effectively dictate coverage options and ration care for plans that participate in the state insurance exchanges created by the bill.

Additionally:

  • The Reid bill depends on the recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in no fewer than 14 places.
  • This task force was responsible for advising women under 50 to not undergo annual mammograms.
  • The administration claims the task force recommendations do not carry the force of law, but the Reid bill itself contradicts them in section 2713.
  • The bill explicitly states, on page 17, that health insurance plans "shall provide coverage for" services approved by the task force.
  • This chilling provision represents the government stepping between doctors and patients.
  • When the government asserts the power to provide care, it also asserts the power to deny care.

Source: Dr. Tom Coburn, "The Health Bill Is Scary; Government guidelines would likely have forbidden the test I used to discover Sheila's cancer," Wall Street Journal, December 16, 2009.

For text:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703514404574588842779569168.html

 

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