Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First step towards nationalized, government directed health included in national economic stimulus bill

The financial and political leviathan called the economic stimulus bill is being criticized for the amount of money it's spending, $800 to 900 billion, what it's being spent on, and how much it will actually stimulate the economy. But there are other provisions discovered in the bill which should also give lawmakers pause.

Earlier, I mentioned the provision which prohibits funding to public facilities which are used for worship services. Now there's a provision which is a key building block for moving towards a national health care system.

According to a Bloomberg news story:

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.

New Penalties

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.

For a government run or directed health care system to work, it's essential they gain access to all patients' medical records and in turn start to decide who can receive what treatments. Universal, government run health care means bureaucrats will start injecting themselves into what were formerly patient-doctor decisions.

This has been fought in Minnesota for a number of years where certain legislators have attempted to exert more state control and regulation of health care. With the Obama Administration, the same effort is now being made in Congress. The ultimate consequence of more government involvement in health care is rationing and reduced health care quality.

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