Washington Times Confirms Baucus Health Care Bill has Rationing for Seniors

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 25, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Washington Times Confirms Baucus Health Care Bill has Rationing for Seniors

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 25
, 2009

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — In their analysis of the Baucus health care bill, pro-life groups point out a section that rations health care for senior citizens. In an editorial today, the Washington Times confirms that to be the case, and members of a Senate panel will address it when they vote on amendments next week to fix the problems.

Borrowing from a controversial phrase first introduced by Sarah Palin, the Times says, "Yes, there are death panels. Its members won’t even know whose deaths they are causing."

"But under the health care bill sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, death panels will indeed exist – oh so cleverly disguised as accountants," the Times editors write.

The offending provision is on Pages 80-81 of the bill buried deep in a section about Medicare payments to doctors that would take an attorney to decipher.

"Beginning in 2015, payment would be reduced by five percent if an aggregation of the physician’s resource use is at or above the 90th percentile of national utilization," the Baucus bill says.

The Times translates the language into plain English, saying "it means that in any year in which a particular doctor’s average per-patient Medicare costs are in the top 10 percent in the nation, the feds will cut the doctor’s payments by 5 percent."

"This provision makes no account for the results of care, its quality or even its efficiency. It just says that if a doctor authorizes expensive care, no matter how successfully, the government will punish him by scrimping on what already is a low reimbursement rate for treating Medicare patients," the Times explains.

"The incentive, therefore, is for the doctor always to provide less care for his patients for fear of having his payments docked. And because no doctor will know who falls in the top 10 percent until year’s end, or what total average costs will break the 10 percent threshold, the pressure will be intense to withhold care, and withhold care again, and then withhold it some more," it continues. "Or at least to prescribe cheaper care, no matter how much less effective, in order to avoid the penalties."

The National Right to Life Committee analysis concludes that this provision will cause a "death spiral" by "ensur[ing] that doctors are forced to ration care for their senior citizen patients."

Even liberal columnist Nat Henthoff agrees, calls the provision "insidious," and writes that "the nature of our final exit" will be very much at risk.

Apart from the rationing concerns, the Times says the provision makes little financial sense.

"For all the trouble to the doctors and all the added risks to elderly patients, this provision will raise just $1 billion over six years for the federal Treasury. That doesn’t account, though, for the added costs to the government – and thus to taxpayers – of tracking all this data per doctor and per patient, and then trying to collect the penalties from doctors after they already have been paid for their services," the editors write.

The Times notes that this isn’t the only provision of the Baucus bill that leads to rationing of medical care for seniors.

The proposed "health care exchange" and the independent review panels and a national health board "will be empowered to make aggregate decisions – based on statistics, not on an individual patient’s needs – about what sorts of care will be allowed and what won’t," the Times writes.

"As it is in Great Britain, where thousands of cancer patients each year die prematurely due to lack of treatment, the inevitable result of government care could be the same for many Americans as if an actual panel decided case-by-case to euthanize them," the editorial says.

"The Baucus provision would only exacerbate this bureaucratic preference for death by proxy," it concludes.

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