How House Bill Runs Over Grandma
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, July 31, 2009 4:20 PM PT
In the recesses of the House health care "reform" bill is a provision
for end-of-life counseling for seniors. Don't worry, granny, they're
from the government and they're here to help.
IBD Exclusive Series: Government-Run Healthcare: A Prescription For Failure
At a town hall meeting at AARP headquarters in Washington, D.C.,
President Obama was asked by a woman from North Carolina if it was true
"that everyone that's Medicare age will be visited and told they have
to decide how they wish to die."
At first, the president joked that not enough government workers
existed to ask the elderly how they wanted to die. The idea, he said,
was to encourage the use of living wills and that critics were
misrepresenting the intent of the "end of life" counseling provided for
in the House bill. He did not say, "No, they wouldn't be contacted."
This administration, pledging to cut medical costs and for which
"cost-effectiveness" is a new mantra, knows that a quarter of Medicare
spending is made in a patient's final year of life. Certainly the
British were aware when they nationalized their medical system.
The controlling of medical costs in countries such as Britain
through rationing, and the health consequences thereof are legendary.
The stories of people dying on a waiting list or being denied
altogether read like a horror movie script.
The U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
(NICE) basically figures out who deserves treatment by using a
cost-utility analysis based on the "quality adjusted life year."
One year in perfect health gets you one point. Deductions are taken for blindness, for being in a wheelchair and so on.
The more points you have, the more your life is considered worth saving, and the likelier you are to get care.
People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in
the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this
brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially
The British are praised for spending half as much per capita on
medical care. How they do it is another matter. The NICE people say
that Britain cannot afford to spend $20,000 to extend a life by six
months. So if care will cost $1 more, you get to curl up in a corner
In March, NICE ruled against the use of two drugs, Lapatinib and
Sutent, that prolong the life of those with certain forms of breast and
The British have succeeded in putting a price tag on human life, as we are about to.
Can't happen here, you say? "One troubling provision of the House
bill," writes Betsy McCaughey in the New York Post, "compels seniors to
submit to a counseling session every five years (and more often if they
become sick or go into a nursing home) about alternatives for
end-of-life care (House bill, Pages 425-430)."
One of the Obama administration's top medical care advisers is
Oxford- and Harvard-educated bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel. Yes, he's the
brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and has the ear of
his brother and the president.
"Calls for changing physician training and culture are perennial and
usually ignored," he wrote last June in the Journal of the American
Medical Association. "However, the progression in end-of-life care
mentality from 'do everything' to more palliative care shows that
change in physician norms and practices is possible."
Emanuel sees a problem in the Hippocratic Oath doctors take to first
do no harm, compelling them "as an imperative to do everything for the
patient regardless of cost or effect on others," thereby avoiding the
inevitable move toward "socially sustainable, cost-effective care."
During the June 24 ABC infomercial on health care broadcast from the
White House, Obama confessed that if "it's my family member, if it's my
wife, if it's my children, if it's my grandmother, I always want them
to get the very best care."
Not, apparently, if it's your grandmother.