Medicare Plan Would Ration Life-Saving Care and Prescription Drugs

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 2, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Medicare Plan Would Ration Life-Saving Care and Prescription Drugs

by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 2, 2003

Washington, DC ( — A leading pro-life organization is concerned that a Medicare proposal would include rationing of life-saving medical treatment and prescription drugs under Medicare.

A House-Senate conference committee is currently considering a Medicare bill regarding prescription drug benefits in health insurance plans, where it is stalled because of growing disagreements.

The House bill — but not the Senate’s — allows the new prescription drug benefit to be offered by these plans with unmanaged access to drugs, and allows senior citizens to add their own money on top of the government contribution to get such unrationed drug insurance

A spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) told that it wants to ensure that older Americans are permitted, if they wish, to add their own money on top of the government contribution in order to get an unrationed, unmanaged version of the prescription drug benefit — as well as unrationed access to life-saving medical treatment.

By denying Americans the ability to use their own money to supplement Medicare, pro-life groups say the government is denying medical treatment — a form of involuntary euthanasia.

NRLC is asking pro-life advocates to urge their representatives to sign on to a letter to the House conferees by pro-life Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX). The letter says that senior citizens should have the choice of an unrationed, unmanaged alternative in
Medicare prescription drug coverage.

"Since its inception, the pro-life movement has been as concerned about protecting older people and those with disabilities from euthanasia as about protecting the unborn from abortion," said Burke J. Balch, J.D., director of NRLC’s Department of Medical Ethics. "Government-imposed rationing is a form of involuntary euthanasia. It is outrageous when, by law, the federal government prevents people from using their own money to save their own lives."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has pledged to allow Medicare recipients to use their own funds.

"I believe in assuring the ability of seniors who choose to do so to add their own funds on top of the government contribution in order to participate in private fee-for-service plans under Medicare," Frist said during debate on the Senate floor.

Balch noted that the pro-life movement played a key role in the early 1990’s in defeating the Clinton plan for national health insurance, which would have imposed "premium caps" to limit every Americans ability to pay for unrationed health care.

According to Balch, this would have result in the denial of lifesaving treatment in circumstances in which, in the words of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), it is "not appropriate–will not enhance or save the quality of life."

"In 1997," Balch said, "the pro-life movement succeeded in creating an option in Medicare under which senior citizens can choose to add their own money, on top of the limited government payment, in order to select health insurance plans that are less likely to deny needed life-saving treatment called private fee-for-service plans. Now we must safeguard that option, and ensure that such plans can offer an unrationed, unmanaged form of any new prescription drug benefit."

Related web sites:
Representative Sessions’ letter –

More information from National Right to Life –