House Panel Adopts Amendment to Help Stop Rationing in Health Care Legislation

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 30, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

House Panel Adopts Amendment to Help Stop Rationing in Health Care Legislation

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 30
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The House of Representatives on Thursday adopted an amendment to one of the three health care bills committees are crafting. The amendment would prevent the use of “comparative effectiveness” research methodologies as a basis for denial of benefits to patients against their will.

Rationing of health care could involve cutting off lifesaving medical treatment and resulting in euthanasia.

Using the “comparative effectiveness” research, other nations like Great Britain have denied medical benefits and treatments based on a patient’s age, expected length of life, or of the patient’s present or predicted disability or quality of life.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the amendment, sponsored by pro-life Rep. Michael Rogers of Michigan, despite objections from Democrats on the panel.

The current House bill the committee is considering sets up a federal center for comparative effectiveness research, which concerns Rogers.

"Alarmingly the bill has no restrictions on how the federal government can use this research," he said during the debate, according to a Reuters report. "Comparative effectiveness research is about general average assumptions" rather than individuals seeking treatment.

Henry Waxman, the abortion advocate who is the chairman of the committee, and several other Democrats complained about the amendment but then let it pass on a voice vote without taking a roll call.

This isn’t the first time Congress has debated and voted on comparative effectiveness research during this summer’s health care debate.

In June, the Senate HELP Committee defeated an amendment from Sen. Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, on a partisan vote, with Democrats opposing it and Republicans supporting it.

Burke Balch, director of the National Right to Life Committee’s Powell Center for Medical Ethics, emailed about the amendment following the vote.

“The current sources of funds being considered to pay for health care restructuring are so inadequate in the long term that rationing will be compelled,” he charged.

Balch pointed to one example in the medical literature showing an attempt made to assess different “quality adjusted life year” scores for each of the following: “no physical disability, limp, walk with crutches, and need a wheelchair.

In another, the authors wrote, “[I]t may be judged that one year of life with a moderate disability is equivalent to 0.75 years of life at optimal health.”

Balch said at the time that, while the existing Senate bill language says that comparative effectiveness research such as this “shall not be construed as mandates for payment, coverage, or treatment,” nothing in the current bill prevents it being used to deny treatment.

He said the defeat of the Enzi amendment "cleared the way for that rationing to be based on discrimination against people with disabilities, older people, and anyone considered to have a poor ‘quality of life.’”

Prior to the vote, Enzi talked about the need for his language.
"President Obama promised that under his health reform proposal, every American who had coverage that they liked could keep it. This bill fails to deliver on that promise," Enzi said.

Enzi said the provisions in the bill "provide the government with an unprecedented role in the doctor-patient relationship. Government bureaucracy will end up dictating the treatment that we can and cannot have, and the result will be a delay and a denial of health care services."

Amendments on the rationing issue could also come from Enzi or other lawmakers on the Senate floor.

Related web sites:
National Right to Life –

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