[Note: Apparently the link to the McCaughey story referenced below was broken when this entry was posted. The problem has been corrected and I apologize to my readers.]
Barack Obama and I may be about to part company over the stimulus bill currently being debated in Congress. Not all of it. Just the parts that sound more like his long-term goals than immediate emergency economic measures. And in particular, the sneaky changes in health care that have been slipped in and apparently overlooked by everyone.
Today over at Bloomberg, Betsy McCaughey wrote a commentary entitled “Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan.” I’ve never heard of McCaughey, but when it comes to financial matters, the Bloomberg name carries some weight.
First of all, why does this stimulus bill contain anything about health care? That’s an entirely different issue, a massive one, that needs to be carefully considered and implemented over time — not slipped through as part of a stimulus package where jobs and the economy are at stake.
I knew health care was one area where the left and I would part company. If there’s any truth to McCaughey’s words, though, we should all be very worried, if only because she credits Tom Daschle with originating most of the ideas.
Bringing modern IT technology to our medical records system makes sense. I’ve no quarrel with that, although I’m not at all sure it belongs in the stimulus package. It might create some jobs, but unemployment isn’t really affecting IT people yet.
McCaughey explains some of the other provisions in the package:
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.
One thing that currently cripples a lot of our health care is that the insurance companies are dictating our treatment. Your doctor’s decisions about what’s best for you are dictated by what your insurance company will pay for. Does anyone really think that kicking those decisions up to some bureaucrat in Washington is going to be an improvement!? I want my doctor making the decisions about my health — not the insurance company and certainly not some idiot in Washington. Medicine should consist of the doctor telling someone up the line what the patient needs, not some clerk in a faraway cubicle telling the doctor what to do.
McCaughey goes on to talk about the function of the proposed Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research:
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.
This would be about where I exploded. “Slow the development and use … “? This is progress and reform!!?? I’m starting to see horns and a tail on my mental picture of Daschle.
And the worst of it (for me) was yet to come. Seniors would be hit the hardest by the new provisions. For example, the older I get, the less cost-effective it will be to treat my arthritis or osteoporosis, since I might not live much longer anyway, so the Council might deny me the treatment. There’s no mention of the possibility of my death being hastened because of complications after I break my hip because of my untreated osteoporosis. Nor is there a discussion of my quality of life if I happen to live to age 90, suffering from arthritis the whole time because the Council decided to discontinue my treatment when I turned 70.
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.
Still no real mention of the most important element of all. The patients. Real living, breathing human beings, each of us unique. We are not account numbers or cost variables or risk factors. We get sick, we get injured, we hurt, we suffer, we die. To approach health care as nothing more than some gigantic ledger book is an affront to our humanity. We can and must do better than this.