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Government health care – the “death panel” at work

August 11, 2009

Update: Lori Roman writes for the Washington Examiner: ” Government-run health care killed my father“. Just don’t call it a death panel.

Some folks are in an uproar about Sarah Palin’s article on the current health care debate. She said:

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Democrats and the media (which are mostly the same thing), are howling in outrage. There is no “death panel” in the health care legislation, they say. They call such comments inflammatory. Jake Tapper says her comments have no place in the debate:

pictures of government bureaucrats forcing euthanasia upon seniors — and, now, children with Down syndrome — because they’re not productive members of society are not part of any reasonable debate on the facts of the matter.

Well, here’s a picture for Mr. Tapper. Barbara Wagner in Oregon, seeking help for her lung cancer, instead was sent an offer for free life-ending drugs (what normal people would call poison). Barbara was 64 years old. Now, she’s dead. But Oregon saved some money. What name do you give the group of people who decided to send Barbara $50 in drugs for a “physician-assisted death”? The cancer treatment drug, Tarceva, was too expensive.  Fortunately for her, a generous pharmaceutical industry heard of her plight and provided her with free medicine. How did the Orgeon Healh Plan respond to her plight? They basically said “take this pill and die, thanks”.

Private health insurance seeks to reduce costs by screening for patients with pre-existing conditions, or requiring higher premiums for people in high-risk groups. Government thinks that is unfair. Instead, they seek to reduce costs by providing fewer services for the very young and very old.  Think that’s an unfair characterization?

Obama’s special advisor on health care, Ezekiel Emanuel, puts it this way:

Suppose a 25-year-old and a 65-year-old have a life threatening disease. Since the 25-year-old has many more potential years of life ahead of him, he should receive preferential treatment, says Emanuel.

Read more of Ezekiel’s writings here. And here. The term he uses is the “Complete Lives System”. The system prioritizes limited health care budgets by figuring out the future productivity and health costs of the patient.  If you’re not contributing enough to society, or your future health costs are too high, then you’re lower on the list.

Democrats argue that these situations will only arise in situations of scarcity. True enough, at least at first. But even initially, health care budgets will be fixed. So maybe if you ask for a new cancer drug in January, you get it, but by October, there is no more money in the budget for cancer treatments for “non-preferred” patients.

Uncle Sam is already rationing care. The Native American health care system that the U.S. adminsiters on reservations is notorious for its inefficiency and  budget problems.  It’s a system that is currently up and running.  The governor of South Dakota puts it this way:

“Right now in South Dakota, we’ve got one of the best examples of a health-care system run amok, and that is Indian health,” Rounds said in an interview with the Journal. “And I wouldn’t wish that health care on anybody. It would be an absolute disaster in America.”

Indians say, half-jokingly, “don’t get sick after June!” Otherwise the Indian Health System, IHS, will be out of money.

Think about the examples of Oregon and the IHS. Think about the problems with the Veterans Administration. Think about the budgets for Medicare and Medicaid. Now ask yourself – do you want another government health plan?

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