Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Paging Dr. Stupid

Dumb Daschle Idea Snuck In With Stimulus

Have you ever seen the movie Saw III? I know, I know just hear me out. Throughout the movie the bad guy sets up elaborate “tests” for his victims and they must overcome both psychological and physical torture in order to live.

Well, at the end of part III, the bad guy is killed, however I turns out that he’s placed more traps to be activated post-mortem and manages to continue to lead his victims into them even after he dies, by way of tape recorders placed all over the city.

Scary and realistic!

Well, as it turns out the vanquished Tom Daschle has done pretty much the same thing. Before being asked to drop out of consideration for HHS secretary due to a failure to pay taxes, he convinced Barack Obama to sneak something into the stimulus bill.

While most of the non-stimulus items in Obama’s massive pork-package are wasteful, but only harmful when added up, i.e. millions for Frisbee golf courses, honeybee insurance, etc. This one is incredibly dangerous on its own. Here’s what it is:

The Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research or FCCCER, which is the perfect acronym for this, starts off as a fairly decent idea. It would put all medical records into a big federal database. This is terrific because it eliminates all of the administrative costs associated with paper records, which are staggering, and it will allow for the easier transfer of records from hospital to hospital.

Then it gets bad. SAW III bad.

First there would be a new bureaucracy. This government bureaucracy will monitor each time you go to the doctor and if these bureaucracy think that the treatment that your doctor is giving you is too expensive then they will “guide” your doctor into taking some other course of action. If your doctor doesn’t do what the feds recommend, either due to a disagreement with their ideas of what procedures would be most “appropriate and cost effective” they would be punished. So now Uncle Sam is basically limiting your personal doctor who knows you far better than Tom Daschle does (I’m guessing) to procedures that Uncle Sam endorses.

Now here’s where it gets creepy. Doctors who go along with the plan will be known as “meaningful users”. This title is not defined, but if you’re not considered a “meaningful user” of the system you will face penalties. And in a quote directly from the bill that could have come out of an Orwell novel, the HHS secretary will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time”. So eventually, one guy in Washington DC will be able to add to the list of procedures your doctor can’t perform whenever he gets the urge. To me “Meaningful Users” sounds like robot-talk. And not friendly robot’s either.

Why would they do this you ask? Well it’s quite simple. In order to bring down health care costs Obama and Daschle want the government to discourage doctors from using expensive new medications and new technologies. They also want Americans to become more accepting of “hopeless diagnoses” and of “forgoing experimental treatments”. Sorry Grandma, you’re gonna’ die! Deal with it.

And the more reliant on the government we become for our health care, the fewer options that are open to sick people. The article that exposed this smelly little nugget that was being slipped into the stimulus at the last minute, explains that this FCCCER, was modeled after a similar program in the UK.

“This board approves or rejects treatments using a formula that divides the cost of the treatment by the number of years the patient is likely to benefit. Treatments for younger patients are more often approved than treatments for diseases that affect the elderly, such as osteoporosis.

In 2006, a U.K. health board decreed that elderly patients with macular degeneration had to wait until they went blind in one eye before they could get a costly new drug to save the other eye. It took almost three years of public protests before the board reversed its decision. “

The introduction of FCCCER into the stimulus bill is sneaky and manipulative on Obama’s part. He is taking advantage of taxpayers during a time when Americans have become so fearful of economic collapse that Obama has been able to convince them that even debating his trillion-dollar stimulus plan is counterproductive. Not only is this a bad way to govern, but the long-term ramifications FCCCER itself are horrendous.

You see, if the federal government is going to tell doctors what equipment they can use, and what medications are allowed to be given to sick patients and the government will take pains to fall on the more cost-effective side, this eliminates the private sector’s incentives to create newer, better drugs and life saving technologies. The guy who stands to make a fortune by building a better MRI isn’t going to build it if doctors wont use it out of fear of being punished by the government. So while in the short term, health care cost will go down, important medical advances will take longer to realize and in many case stagnate far longer than necessary.

It’s a real life horror movie that none of us need to live through. The only thing that can save us now is the good sense of two senators from Maine and one former cancer patient from Pennsylvania, who might not be with us now if the government had told him that his advanced case of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was a “hopeless diagnosis” and one which he should simply “accept”.

-Dan Joseph

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