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November 16th, 2009 3:24 pm
Pain Panels, Anyone?

Okay, so maybe the cost-control bureaucrats under ObamaCare wouldn’t directly kill people forced into a national health plan. However, a sobering article in today’s Wall Street Journal shows how a key element of every health reform bill now in Congress could cause death(s) by a thousand denials.

As envisioned by the Senate Finance Committee, the commission—all 15 members appointed by the President—would have to meet certain budget targets each year. Starting in 2015, Medicare could not grow more rapidly on a per capita basis than by a measure of inflation. After 2019, it could only grow at the same rate as GDP, plus one percentage point.

The theory is to let technocrats set Medicare payments free from political pressure, as with the military base closing commissions. But that process presented recommendations to Congress for an up-or-down vote. Here, the commission’s decisions would go into effect automatically if Congress couldn’t agree within six months on different cuts that met the same target. The board’s decisions would not be subject to ordinary notice-and-comment rule-making, or even judicial review.”

So, absent a congressional override, there is no appeal for a denial of care made in the name of cost-benefit analysis. Of course, the “costs” and “benefits” will be considered as collective values interpreted by government administrators – not individual patients and taxpayers.

The State of Washington already has a similarly functioning “independent commission” that is actively denying care like the types mentioned above. While the consequences could be deadly, the creation of prolonged pain in the interim borders on unconscionable. Such decisions will become a reality when the public “option” becomes a public “mandate” forcing all but the wealthiest to suffer under a rationed health care system. Let’s hope there is enough push-back from Congress and the country to guarantee similar types of “pain panels” don’t take up residence in the nation’s capitol.

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