Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stimulus Plan Stimulates Wrong Health Care Choices

By Greg Scandlen of Consumers for Health Care Choices, February 12

So, The House and Senate have agreed on a massive stimulus package and it is on its way to the White House. Like most of the Members of Congress, I have no idea yet what is in the bill. But we'll be finding out for months to come, I'm sure.

Ms. McCaughey's little op-ed piece, “Ruin Your Health with the Obama Stimulus Plan” in Bloomberg News has set off a firestorm. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) sent out a "Leader Alert," accusing the Democrats of, "attempting to take advantage of the crisis in our economy to enact a series of liberal policy proposals that have nothing to do with economic recovery." He adds, "One of those proposals - dubbed "comparative effectiveness" - would lay the groundwork for a government takeover of American's health care system by creating an organization to decide how to ration medical treatments." He says, "this proposal is opposed by many of American's leading healthcare research organizations, like the AIDS Institute, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, American Association for Cancer Research, Easter Seals, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists," because it would lead to "restrictions on patients' access to treatments and physicians' and other providers' ability to deliver care that best meets the needs of the individual patient."
House Leader Site.

CNS reports on an interview Fox News had with Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Jon Tester (D-MT) based specifically on Ms. McCaughey's op-ed. Mr. Specter who was one of only three Republican senators to vote for the package said, "We are not going to let the federal government monitor what doctors do." And Mr. Tester said, "If - that's a big if - if there's language in there that says the government's going to make my health care decisions, we'll get it out."

CNS News.

Steven West, MD, the president of the Florida Medical Society weighs in with an op-ed of his own in the Tallahassee paper. He writes, "As Congress rushes its economic stimulus plan to the desk of President Obama, its grand vision of health reform has been secretly buried inside: rationing patient care and dispensing cookbook medicine."

He adds, "That vision involves using large government bureaucracy and computer technology to tell patients what kind of care they can receive from their doctors. The congressional rationing plan will make doctors supplicants to big government and big insurance, rather than independent advocates for their patients. In the system that Congress envisions, the doctor serves the payer and not the patient."

He then gives a list of better approaches, including -
• Tax rebates should be given to all Americans to create tax-free health savings accounts and to buy insurance for health catastrophes

• Insurance prices can be driven down if the government would remove politically motivated, mandated benefits that most people don't want or use.

• Patients should be allowed to purchase less expensive and higher quality insurance from another state, a ban now imposed by Congress.

• Reducing government regulation and interference in patients' financial decisions will help lower costs and drive up quality.

• National reform of the legal system will provide the fastest path to cost containment.

Tallahassee Paper.

The Chicago Tribune is also concerned, publishing an editorial that says, "We've been skeptical about this whole process. The mantra on this page has been that if the U.S. has to do this, the spending has to be timely, targeted and temporary." But it balks at slipping health reform into a massive bill like this, saying, "Many Americans want health-care reform. And there's plenty of room to improve the system, to cut costs and deliver better care and coverage. But the Senate is right to recognize this is a debate for another day. Its stimulus package does not attempt this massive growth in health spending."

Chicago Tribune.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate are divided over the patient privacy protections that go with the health IT spending, with the House much stronger on privacy than the Senate is. An article in the Washington Post sums up the in fighting in Congress. It says, "At the heart of the debate is how to strike a balance between protecting patient privacy and expanding the health industry's access to vast and growing databases of information on the health status and medical care of every American."

But, like all Washington battles, a lot depends on how much money the warring sides can put into lobbying - "The effort to speed adoption of health information technology has become the focus of an intense lobbying battle fueled by health-care and drug-industry interests that have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying and tens of millions more on campaign contributions over the past two years, much of it shifting to the Democrats since they took control of Congress."
And so it goes in the New Utopia. All decisions become political ones, all power goes to the best funded lobbyists. And you wonder why Congress wants to get more involved in health care? Just wait until it starts deciding what will be covered in a "universal" health scheme.

Washington Post.

Former AMA president Donald Palmisano, MD has been making the rounds talking about the importance of patient privacy. It's nice to have the AMA weigh-in - finally - about preserving the patient/physician relationship. Unfortunately, it still officially supports the Health IT and Comparative Effectiveness provisions in the stimulus package.

The Today Show.
Good Morning America.

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