Published in the New York Post on July 31, 2009
The health-reform debate on Capitol Hill is skipping over the key issue: “Universal insurance” means less care for people who have coverage now — especially the elderly.
And the “compromises” now under way only make the problem worse.
Here’s a point that’s no surprise except to the “reformers”: People with insurance use more health care.
President Obama seeks to cover 50 million new people. Where are the extra doctors, nurses and so on going to come from? Neither the administration nor anyone on the Hill has proposed anything to add to the supply of medical services even as they plan vastly to increase the demand.
The politicians are playing a Washington game — compromising on false or tangential issues while failing to address the central one.
It doesn’t matter if you reduce or eliminate the mandate for employers to provide coverage, if you’re still insuring more people without adding medical personnel and other resources. Same story for whether you replace the “public option” government-run plan with government-run “co-ops.”
More, all the bills come up with cash to cover their huge costs by ordering cuts in Medicare — cuts that Congress could reverse only by affirmative majority votes. Basically, the government will be paying doctors and providers even less to treat the elderly — at a time when countless doctors are starting to refuse new Medicare patients.
More demand; no added supply; Medicare cuts: It all adds up to rationing — lower-quality medical care for most Americans, especially for the elderly.
A doctor in Massachusetts — where an Obama-style plan is already in place — recently told us that she now has to read 60 mammograms a day in the time she once spent on 45. “It keeps me up at night,” she told us, “that I might make a mistake, I am so rushed.”
For the elderly, it means less care, period. A federal health board will sit in judgment of medical procedures and protocols and impose guidelines on all providers for when to withhold certain kinds of care.
For example, the drug Avastin is widely used in America to treat advanced colon cancer. But it costs $50,000 a year — so Canada’s national-health system doesn’t permit its use. As a result, 41 percent of colon-cancer patients in Canada die each year, as opposed to 32 percent in the United States. (Canada’s average eight-month wait for colonoscopies, another result of national-health rationing, also contributes to the problem.)
Members of Congress will be home through August to test public opinion. It’s up to us to give them an earful.