Rebutting Obama on ‘death panels’

On Friday, Aug. 14, The New York Times ran a front-page story “rebutting” the “rumor” that Obama’s healthcare plan calls for the creation of “death panels” to decide when to pull the plug on sick patients. The rebuttal misses the fundamental truth of the death panel charge.

While there will be no federal board that will vote to kill patients, there will be extensive rationing that will, inevitably, lead to the same result. Taken together, Obama’s decision to cut the Medicare budget and to expand insurance coverage to 50 million new patients without any new doctors or nurses, mean that rationing is unavoidable.

When Obama speaks of cutting “inefficiencies” and reducing costs, he means that he will reduce the amount and quality of healthcare available to the elderly. Denied state-of-the-art medications and necessary surgical procedures, patients will be faced with the grim likelihood of their imminent demise. In the face of this reality, end-of-life counseling will be both necessary and, given the choices, welcome.

Obama will cut care to the elderly in several ways:

1. He will cut hundreds of billions from Medicare spending largely by lowering reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals for patient care.

If a hospital gets less money for each MRI, it will do fewer of them. If a surgeon gets paid less for a heart bypass on a Medicare patient, he will also perform them more rarely.

These facts of the marketplace are not only inevitable consequences of Obama’s cuts, they are its intended consequence. Without them, his savings will prove illusory.

2. By expanding the patient load through extending full coverage to 50 million Americans (including such “Americans” as illegal immigrants), he will force rationing decisions of harried and overworked doctors and hospitals.

There will simply not be enough facilities or personnel to cope with the increased workload. As a result, there will be a de facto rationing as busy surgeons decide who would benefit most from their treatment.

The elderly will, inevitably, be the losers in these contests.

3. The Federal Health Board, established by this legislation, will be charged with collecting data on various forms of treatment for different conditions to assess which are the most effective and efficient.

While the conclusions of this board are not specifically imposed on HMOs and healthcare providers by the legislation, their recommendations will, inevitably, set the standard of care and the protocols that should and will be followed throughout the system.

Otherwise, why collect the data at such great cost and effort? Individual public or private insurance companies, and their HMOs, will use these data to allow or deny care to the elderly, a de facto rationing system.

4. In assessing whether to allow certain treatments to sick patients, medical and administrative professionals will be encouraged to apply the QARY system (Quality-Adjusted Remaining Years). Under QARY, the cost of treatment will be amortized over the remaining quality years of life that are likely for each patient.

Does a hip replacement cost $100,000? A 75-year-old diabetic with a heart condition may only have three more quality adjusted years. At $33,333 per year, the price is too steep and the surgery would likely be disallowed. But a 50-year-old who is otherwise healthy, may have 25 years of quality life ahead of him, and, at $4,000 per year, the surgery makes sense.

These assessments diminish the importance of the remaining lives of the elderly and condemn them to infirmity, pain and an earlier death than would otherwise be their fate.

To the extent that any of these steps that curtail care for the elderly lead to an earlier demise, end-of-life counseling will be necessary.

While no panel will specifically pronounce a sentence of death on an old person, doctors, hospitals, HMOs and the Federal Health Board will all be forced to participate in decisions to deny adequate care that will amount to the same thing.

[Dick Morris, former political consultant and pollster, writes a nationally syndicated political column and provides commentary for Fox News.] COPYRIGHT 2009 DICK MORRIS AND EILEEN MCGANN, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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mapleleaf's picture
Submitted by mapleleaf on Tue, 08/18/2009 - 4:55pm.

In life, every consumer weighs the utility of his purchase against the cost. When a parent sends a child to college, the parent weighs the amount of tuition against the benefit that may accrue to the child, and the parent looks at his wallet. Some parents have almost unlimited funds, and others don’t. That makes all the difference.

If a 75-year-old diabetic with a bad heart wants hip replacement surgery, it does not seem really fair to impose the cost of his surgery upon the taxpayers at large. If he wants to pay for it himself, he should have at it. But unless the state is rational in allocating public funds for health care, the system will go broke in no time.

Which is better? A rational system? Or no system at all?

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 5:23am.

Yes, maybe killing them with a needle would get them out of their painful misery, wouldn't it?

Also, I want you to quit driving on my Interstates which I think came out of the general federal fund (mostly from California, Illinois, Florida and Texas).

Do not impose the hip bill on us, huh?

Most of them would have the $150,000 anyway>

The Wedge's picture
Submitted by The Wedge on Tue, 08/18/2009 - 10:48pm.

The world has finite resources. We must put the people on the carousel at 30. We can have life crystals to tell us when our time is up. It is all good. I have seen it, circa 1976. How do I become a runner in this situation?

Man, this attempt at obscure humor reads alot like Boinkers and his rants.

DarthDubious's picture
Submitted by DarthDubious on Sat, 08/22/2009 - 3:38pm.

If dystopia is what you like you may also like to see THX1138, Brave New World, and Gattica. All about total control of the human race in the future that I hope never comes true.

In Liberty,


S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 7:18am.

when you get recycled..

"Any People who expect to be both IGNORANT and FREE, in a state of CIVILIZATION, expects what NEVER was and NEVER will be."

S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Tue, 08/18/2009 - 8:37pm.

My THANKS go to Mapleleaf and his logic for stating the fact that Rationed Healthcare is inevitible and MONEY is more important then the quality of life of our Elderly..

"Which is better? A rational system? Or no system at all?

In other words.. Grandmas had a good life it's time to let her go.. Younger people need the cash more..

Canada's System, UK's System and the European model.. Now do you understand what is in store for us?

"Any People who expect to be both IGNORANT and FREE, in a state of CIVILIZATION, expects what NEVER was and NEVER will be."

dawn69's picture
Submitted by dawn69 on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 12:25am.

Someone pointed out in another post that he felt that a depression could still be eminent. On this point, I agree. I worry about that possibility. So....what makes anyone think that in a climate where commodities like sugar could be rationed that health care would not be?

Come get your ration cards for sugar, gas, etc... But here's all the free and excellent health care you could ever want.

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." - Ben Franklin

DarthDubious's picture
Submitted by DarthDubious on Sat, 08/22/2009 - 3:33pm.

just like the recession was here for well over a year before they finally announced it on the nightly network propaganda, I mean news. With all the printing money out of thin air with no real assets to back it up we can look forword to a hyperinflative stagnation of the economy in the coming months and years.

Sorry folks it is inevitable, but we'll make it through somehow as we humans always do.

In Liberty,


Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 5:40am.

Under the possibility of a depression I believe you are correct!
No diamomd inserts.

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