Published on TheHill.com on May 12, 2009
When all of America’s top health insurers and providers met at the White House this week and pledged to save $2 trillion over the next decade in health costs, they were pledging to sabotage our medical care. The blunt truth, which everybody agreed to keep quiet, is that the only way to reduce these costs is to ration healthcare, thereby destroying our system.
- Essential to any cost reduction is a cut in doctors’ fees. Congress is trying to cut Medicare fees by 21 percent. But cuts in fees and doctors’ incomes will just discourage people from entering the profession and those already in it from practicing. The limited number of doctors and nurses in the United States is the key constraint on the availability of healthcare. Our national inventory of 800,000 doctors is growing at only about 1 percent a year (18,000 med school graduates annually minus retirements), while the nurse population is stagnant at 1.4 million. To stretch these limited resources so that they can treat 50 million more people is possible only through the most severe kind of rationing.
- As in Canada, the best way to cut medical costs is to refrain from using the best drugs to treat cancer and other illnesses, thereby economizing at the expense of patients’ lives. Forty-four percent of the drugs approved by the Canadian health authorities for use in their country are not allowed by the healthcare system due to their high cost. As a result, death rates from cancer are 16 percent higher in Canada than in the United States. We will pay for the attempt to save $2 trillion with our lives. (And remember, one cannot opt out of the Canadian system and pay for the medications out of pocket.)
- The only real way to save money on the scale projected is to ration healthcare services. Optimists say that this can be achieved by increased use of preventive care. But the Canadian experience indicates that when government – or its satellite private insurance providers – ration healthcare, they cut preventive care first. In Canada, colonoscopies are so rationed that the colon cancer rate is 25 percent higher than in the U.S. (even though Canada has a much smaller proportion of poor people, whose frequently bad diets make them more prone to the disease).
Obama’s pretension that nobody will find changes in his or her current health insurance plans except for a magical reduction in their cost by $2,500 a year is a fool’s proposition. Private health insurers will be no more private than TARP-funded banks or government-subsidized car companies are in Obama’s America. They will be controlled by government healthcare planners who will approve treatments, limit drug use, hold down medical incomes and bring their cost-cutting programs to bear. Inevitably, their ax will fall on the oldest and the sickest among us, those least “deserving”of our newly limited and, under Obama’s program, diminishing healthcare resources.
The other radical changes Obama is bringing about in our nation can always be reversed. New taxes can be repealed or lowered. That which was nationalized can be privatized. Government which has grown can be cut. But once the healthcare system is extended to cover everyone, with no commensurate increase in the resources available, the change will be forever. The vicious cycle of cuts in medical resources and in the number of doctors and nurses will doom healthcare in this country. This wanton destruction will not be reversible by any bill or program. A crucial part of our quality of life – the best healthcare in the world – will be gone forever.
Politically, voters will feel the impact of these “reforms” very quickly. When they face rejection or limitation at the hands of the bureaucrats, they will quickly understand that the their options have become limited. Just as in the 1990s, when HMOs first became universal, the patient outrage will create a political force all its own and those who foisted this brave new world on the American people will be in their crosshairs.