Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan
Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan
Commentary by Betsy McCaughey
Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Republican Senators are questioning whether President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill contains the right mix of tax breaks and cash infusions to jump-start the economy.
Tragically, no one from either party is objecting to the health provisions slipped in without discussion. These provisions reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle, until recently the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department.
Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version).
The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.
But the bill goes further. 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 (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”
Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.
Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)
What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.
The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). 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.
Elderly Hardest Hit
Daschle says health-care reform “will not be pain free.” Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.
Medicare now pays for treatments deemed safe and effective. The stimulus bill would change that and apply a cost- effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council (464).
The Federal Council is modeled after a U.K. board discussed in Daschle’s book. This board approves or rejects treatments using a formula that divides the cost of the treatment by the number of years the patient is likely to benefit. Treatments for younger patients are more often approved than treatments for diseases that affect the elderly, such as osteoporosis.
In 2006, a U.K. health board decreed that elderly patients with macular degeneration had to wait until they went blind in one eye before they could get a costly new drug to save the other eye. It took almost three years of public protests before the board reversed its decision.
If the Obama administration’s economic stimulus bill passes the Senate in its current form, seniors in the U.S. will face similar rationing. Defenders of the system say that individuals benefit in younger years and sacrifice later.
The stimulus bill will affect every part of health care, from medical and nursing education, to how patients are treated and how much hospitals get paid. The bill allocates more funding for this bureaucracy than for the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force combined (90-92, 174-177, 181).
Hiding health legislation in a stimulus bill is intentional. Daschle supported the Clinton administration’s health-care overhaul in 1994, and attributed its failure to debate and delay. A year ago, Daschle wrote that the next president should act quickly before critics mount an opposition. “If that means attaching a health-care plan to the federal budget, so be it,” he said. “The issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol.”
More Scrutiny Needed
On Friday, President Obama called it “inexcusable and irresponsible” for senators to delay passing the stimulus bill. In truth, this bill needs more scrutiny.
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.
(Betsy McCaughey is former lieutenant governor of New York and is an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The opinions expressed are her own.)
And at Human Events
Cantor Confirms Beginning of Nationalized Healthcare in Stimulus Bill
by Connie Hair
The United States Senate yesterday afternoon passed the largest spending bill in history by a 61-37 straight Democrat party-line vote, assisted by only three so-called Republican senators: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. 216 out of 219 Congressional Republicans opposed this immense spending bill that will cost the American taxpayers nearly $1.3 trillion dollars as passed by the Senate.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates a price-tag of $838.2 billion, $18.7 billion more than the House-passed bill, and would cost an additional $368.9 billion to service the debt.
The bill went back to the House after yesterday’s vote to be further porked-up in conference by House Democrats David Obey (Wis.), Charlie Rangel (N.Y.), and Henry Waxman (Calif.). Also from the House side, Republican conferees are Dave Camp of Michigan and Jerry Lewis of California. The Senate conferees are Democrats Harry Reid (Nev.), Max Baucus (Mont.) and Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) along with Republicans Charles Grassley (Iowa) and Thad Cochran (Miss.) -- all sitting around one big table trying to reconcile the House and Senate bills.
The huge spending bill will next emerge as a Conference Report that must once again pass both chambers (in the Senate by a 60-vote margin). According to Reid, the vote on final passage could happen as early as Friday.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was not as optimistic, saying the negotiations could bleed well into next week. “Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and maybe Wednesday and Thursday next week may be needed to pass the stimulus bill,” Hoyer said.
There are stark differences between the House and Senate bills and what the American people actually want, not that the latter seems to be in any way a consideration in this Democrat-led Congress -- although the calls continue to jam phone lines on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Arlen Specter (RINO-Pa.) released a statement yesterday saying he would not vote for any Conference Report that made changes to the structures and ratios the Senate worked out in its so-called compromise legislation. “My support for the Conference Report on the stimulus package will require that the Senate compromise bill come back virtually intact including, but not limited to, overall spending, the current ratio of tax cuts to spending, and the $110 billion in cuts,” Specter said.
“I’m shocked that any senator would say ‘that's the bill we passed, take it or leave it,’” Hoyer said. Yet Democrats are keenly aware that final passage depends on at least two of the three RINO votes from Specter, Collins and Snowe and, of course, the Democrats holding their line.
This could be a ray of good news for Republicans and the large majority of the American people who oppose this obscene spending bill. In my view, the more argument and discord the better.
Socialized Medicine Hidden in Bill
I asked House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Tuesday if House Republicans would address in conference the revelation by Bloomberg News on Monday (Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan ) that the foundations and action items for the government takeover of healthcare were secreted deep in the rotting bowels of the 778-page Senate bill.
Cantor told me, “The comparative effectiveness issue has been around for quite awhile and it makes the case again that its insertion in to this bill demonstrates that the focus has not been on job sustaining and creation. This is not a job sustaining and creating provision. Some support the notion that we ought to go down the pike of allowing CMS [Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services] now determine what kind of treatment takes place for a particular kind of patient and determine his or her doctor. That’s the kind of discussion we can have in regular order -- that’s a discussion that needs some airing -- but it doesn’t belong in a stimulus bill.”
I asked Cantor if Republicans would effort pulling this in conference. “I’m hopeful, certainly it’s on our list of objections,” Cantor said. “If we’re talking stimulus, why are we doing this? It’s not a decision of doing something or doing nothing, it’s about being smart and getting it right. That has no business in a stimulus bill.”
Geithner Maps Out TARP III with Little Detail
Treasury Secretary and serial tax evader Timothy Geithner Tuesday afternoon gave a vague outline of his proposal for TARP III, yet another massive outlay of money to bail out banks with a price tag of up to an additional $2 trillion. This estimate is up over $1.5 trillion from the $500 billion first estimated last week. This is also completely separate from our growing list of additional spending this fiscal year including the half-trillion dollar omnibus spending bill, a likely additional supplemental in the billions for Obama’s plans in Afghanistan and Iraq and the upcoming tens of billions for the Auto Workers Union disguised as the Big Three Automakers bailout.
The Obama administration, in yet another Orwellian move, did change the doubleplusungood name of the program from TARP [Targeted Assets Relief Program] to the Financial Stability Plan. As Geithner outlined this very vague “stability” plan, the stock market fell by 3% and ended the day down nearly 400 points.