Obama Advisor Ezekiel Emanuel: I Don’t Favor Rationing (Most) Health Care Now

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 17, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Obama Advisor Ezekiel Emanuel: I Don’t Favor Rationing (Most) Health Care Now

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 17
, 2009

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — As the health care debate has intensified, Ezekiel Emanuel has become one of the most well-known, perhaps infamous, of President Barack Obama’s advisors. Emanuel, the chief architect of the reform bills who was pegged as backing rationing, now says he has reformed his views.

Emanuel, the brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, is an Obama advisor and responsible for much of the bill that is causing so much controversy in Congress.

Officially, he is a health-policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and a member of Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research.

What concerns pro-life advocates are his comments through the years that raise eyebrows — such as one from 1996 in which he said medical benefits of a government-controlled healthcare plan would not be given to “individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens.”

Emanuel clarified his stance in the Hastings Center paper by adding, “An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.”

Emanuel’s comments promoting rationing go back to earlier points in his career, but he told the Washington Times on Friday that his "thinking has evolved" and he no longer supports rationing, or as much rationing.

"When I began working in the health policy area about 20 years ago … I thought we would definitely have to ration care, that there was a need to make a decision and deny people care," he said.

"I think that over the last five to seven years … I’ve come to the conclusion that in our system we are spending way more money than we need to, a lot of it on unnecessary care," he said. "If we got rid of that care we would have absolutely no reason to even consider rationing except in a few cases."

Despite his comments, Emanuel wrote in the January 31, 2009 issue of the medical journal Lancet a defense of discrimination against senior citizens.

“Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious [offensive] discrimination," Emanuel wrote. The allocation referred to healthcare services.

Emanuel told the Times that the Lancet article "was focused narrowly on extreme cases where medical resources are limited."

"We’re analyzing a very small set of issues. They’re real and they’re very vexing and they’re very tragic, but it’s hardly all of health care," he said in an attempt to backpedal.

Emanuel came under fire from former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin who accused Dr. Emanuel of "Orwellian thinking" for saying that health care be based on an individual’s "level of productivity in society."

In his Times interview, he responded in kind, saying, "The idea that I would be out there portrayed as somehow wanting to knock people off, just is, I mean, that is completely surreal and Orwellian."

On a more practical level, a spokesman for pro-life Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, says rationing is in the health care bills in Congress and that ruling Democrats defeated an attempt to remove it.

"On three different occasions during the [Senate Health, Education and Labor and Pensions] committee markup, Dr. Coburn and other Republicans attempted to insert language prohibiting rationing," Coburn spokesman John Hart said. "All three amendments were voted down, which suggests that Democrats do, in fact, want to preserve the ability to ration care."

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