Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hidden "Stimulus" Dangers

Much of the criticism of the $787 billion stimulus bill is focused on its cost. But what's really at issue is a matter of life and death. Buried deep in the package, there is an expensive new healthcare program that could jeopardize the health, even the lives, of millions of patients.

So wrote Lawrence A. Hunter in The American Spectator (The Hidden Healthcare Horror). As I wrote on February 11, 2009 , Obama’s miss-named “stimulus” bill is a “socialist Trojan horse”. The provision Mr. Hunter writes about would work as follows:

The bill funnels about $1 billion into government-run "comparative effectiveness research" (CER). Sounds innocuous enough -- that's a relatively paltry sum given the package's $800 billion-plus price tag. But CER will have profound effects on the availability of top-notch treatments in this country. Stripped of bureaucratic jargon, it is the precursor for a national healthcare rationing board.

After describing the horrific consequences of similar programs in Britain and Canada, Mr. Hunter goes on to say:

Virtually every government-run CER program ends up closing off patient access to the best treatments in the name of "cost consciousness." When bureaucrats are put in charge of medical care, cutting down on bills is prioritized over fighting disease.

Phyllis Schlafly, writing in Investor’s Business Daily (Obama Gives What Doctor Did Not Order), provides more details:

[F]ormer New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey sounded the alarm in her article aptly titled "Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan."

She described how stealth provisions provide massive new funding of billions of dollars to an Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology to monitor treatments and decide which are cost-effective and which will be permitted or denied.

Congress thus legislated a fundamental shift away from the "safe and effective" standard and replaced it with what a bureaucrat thinks is cost-effective or has "clinical effectiveness."

Meanwhile, the stimulus bill lays the foundation for new federal surveillance over electronic medical records, with an online medical record for each and every American. The bill establishes a massive new "federal coordinating council for comparative clinical effectiveness research" to devise ways to ration care based on the bureaucrats' review of patient data.

But there is no denying the harm of this new system that facilitates government oversight of an electronic database and gives bureaucrats (who never went to medical school) the power to punish doctors who provide "too much" care.

Doctors who resist the government's guidelines will be controlled by slashing their fees. Doctors will lose their autonomy, just as Tom Daschle sought, and some patients will be left with nowhere to turn for their illnesses.

Not surprisingly, this latest assault on medical freedom in America has the support of the healthcare establishment. Just as the once-respected American Cancer Society last year became a mouthpiece for statism, Ms. Schlafly reports:

The declining American Medical Association, which is increasingly a shill for left-wing advocacy, tried to downplay the outrage of giving a government bureaucracy access to everyone's medical records and punishing doctors who don't treat as the government wants.

Ms. Schlafly does sound a hopeful note:

Team Obama may have overplayed its hand in bringing control-and-ration to medical care. The news has spread like wildfire on the Internet and talk radio, and nonpolitical patients in doctors' waiting rooms can be heard talking about it.

In 1993, Hillary and Bill Clinton tried with all their might to impose a government takeover of all health care, and the 1994 midterm elections repudiated their efforts. The midterm elections of 2010 could be just what the doctor ordered.

But the GOP has yet to get its philosophical act together. A victory at the ballot box based upon voter disgust of the incumbent would be a hollow one. At this crucial time in American history, with so much at stake, the Republican Party needs desperately to put forth a positive agenda that contrasts sharply with the Democrats openly socialist-fascist policies.

The GOP won in 1994 based upon a “Contract with America” which featured specific policy initiatives but no over-arching philosophical theme. As I proposed on November 29, 2008, the Republicans need a much broader and consistent platform…a “Philosophical Contract with America” based upon individual rights.

The Democrats are openly and brazenly proclaiming the end of capitalism…i.e., freedom…and have embraced the omnipotent state as their guiding ideology. That ideology is stamped all over their policy agenda.

America deserves a radical new alternative to the Dem’s statism-“a choice, not an echo”-from the Republican Party. Nothing less will do. Otherwise, any Republican surge in 2010 will only be but another brief respite from the century-long slide toward a socialist America.

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