Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Open wide and say ahhhhhhhhh!

The health care battle is joined. The Democrats are threatening the use of a procedural gimmick to ram socialized medicine down taxpayers' throats without debate. They are threatening insurance companies like Humana with legal action for daring to speak out about massive cuts to Medicare.

And the White House was caught bribing artists to create state propaganda using taxpayer funds.

And the Democrat Party's public relations arm -- also known as the mainstream media -- is laying down covering fire. It began with a mid-summer New York Times op-ed (what else?) by Nicholas Kristof exclaiming the virtues of the Canadian health care system using the anecdotal experiences of one woman.

Of course, Kristof studiously ignored Canadian medical publications like the fascinating bestseller Management of MRI Wait Lists in Canada (Health Care Policy, 2009), the abstract for which reads: "Excessive wait times for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies are a major problem in the Canadian healthcare system."

And Kristof carefully omitted trivial matters like cancer survival rates. The United States is number one in the world -- for all of its citizens, insured or not. U.S. females have a 63% of living five years or more after a cancer diagnosis versus 56% of European women. Men have a larger advantage: 66% to 47%.

The average survival rate for all cancers is 60 percent in the United States compared to 55 percent in Canada. That five percent would mean the world to you if, heaven forbid, one of your parents -- or one of your children -- received that diagnosis.

We can gain valuable insights into the Democrats' plans for socialized medicine using Tom Daschle's book as a guide. Daschle, Obama's first choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services, authored Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis. The book was endorsed by Barack Obama.

The book proposes the establishment of a "board" to set standards for health care. This board would be modeled after the Federal Reserve and the SEC, overseeing every aspect of care for public health systems. Thus the board would automatically come to administer all health care in the country -- an unelected set of bureaucrats deciding every aspect of medical care.

Presumably Daschle recommends the Federal Reserve-SEC-Politburo-style central planning model, because it's functioned so smoothly during the current financial crisis.

On Page 179, Daschle writes, “The Federal Health Board (FHB) wouldn’t be a regulatory agency, but its recommendations would have teeth because all federal health programs would have to abide by them.” Although the FHB would have no official oversight of the two-thirds of health care delivered through the private sector, Daschle asserts that Congress could easily change that aspect of the Board: "[Congress] could... link the tax exclusion for health insurance to insurance that complies with the Board’s recommendation.”

In June, USA Today reported that Democrats plan to use just that approach. "The biggest tax break in America — tax-free health benefits from employers — could be scaled back to pay for President Obama's overhaul of the nation's health care system."

By doing so, Congress would utterly and completely destroy America's private-sector health care system because no health insurance program could survive if it were denied the tax deduction. And it would never be able to match the inherent pricing advantages of a publicly-funded plan.

Using this approach, the FHB would effectively control the operation and practices of every doctor, every nurse, every drug company, every hospital, every health insurance company, every third-party administrator, etc.

On page 199 Daschle helpfully describes who the "losers" would be in his centrally managed system: "Doctors and patients might resent any encroachment on their ability to choose certain treatments, even if they are expensive or ineffectual compared to alternatives. Some insurers might object to new rules that restrict their coverage decisions. And the health-care industry would have to reconsider its business plan."

Put simply, government bureaucrats would decide whether your parents or your children or you live or die. They'll use statistics and actuarial tables and computers in Washington, DC to figure out which treatments are most affordable, where in the queue you'll be placed and how rationing will work.

The book states that the FHB will force and end to the "technology arms race", which he asserts health care systems use "to attract aging baby boomers with the latest diagnostic imaging machines." These are, of course, the same machines that Daschle says "help(s) doctors estimate the spread of cancer or the extent of cardiac disease without surgery." (Page 125)

Daschle believes those tests often lead to treatment; and there's far too much of that going on. To prove his point, he spotlights a study of 828 angiograms in which a third were likely to benefit patients, 50% might or might not, and 14% were not likely to offer a benefit. Thus 86% of patients might benefit, but Daschle claims the approach is too wasteful: "When the test revealed a narrowing of the artery, however slight, cardiologists couldn’t resist doing something about it."

If it were your spouse or parent or child involved, wouldn't you want something done?

In other words, the Obama-Daschle plan proposes to have the Federal Health Board dictate to cardiologists -- and all other Doctors -- which treatments can be rationed to whom. I somehow doubt that Daschle and his cadre of FHB bureaucrats would ever be denied treatment, though.

Daschle also offers a stunning criticism of the current private sector health care system: "Many patients with insurance want any care that might do some good, and plenty of doctors will oblige them." (Page 122)

Anticipating a massive outcry over this Politburo-style approach, he recommends two legislative tactics for creating the Federal Health Board. First, the bill must be passed in the first year of Obama's presidency, when he is most popular. Second, the bill must omit any details of the program. It must be nebulous and vague: "[the] Federal Health Board should be charged with... filling in most of the details. This independent board would be insulated from political pressure.” By "political pressure", Democrats want to prevent our representative democracy from interfering with the Kremlin of Health Care.

By hiding the details of the program, the FHB will be unaccountable to the American people. Which is why the Democrat-Statists are always in a hurry. With the Stimulus bill that no one read. The massive, deficit-ballooning budget bill. The choking deficit spending that quadrupled 2008 levels. And socialized medicine. They want to rush that through before the American people even have a chance to read the bill. That's how much they care about you.

No, they care about power. Acquiring more power. And taking more of your liberty and more of your money to distribute to the unions and the community agitators.

Freddie Mac: bankrupt. Fannie Mae: bankrupt. Social Security: bankrupt. Medicare: bankrupt. Medicaid: bankrupt. The Postal Service: bankrupt. Amtrak: bankrupt.

This illustration is my depiction of our future health care system should the Statist-Democrats get their wish.

Related: The Obamacare Payoff to Unions. Image: Darleen Click. Based upon: Tony Blankley's "Daschle-Obama health care possibilities". Hat tip: Mark Levin.

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