Notorious Right Wing Propaganda Machine, THE NEW YORK TIMES:
Originally Posted by What if...?
When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over “death panels,” Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1. . . . .
The rule was issued by Dr. Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a longtime advocate for better end-of-life care.
“Using unwanted procedures in terminal illness is a form of assault,” Dr. Berwick has said. “In economic terms, it is waste. Several techniques, including advance directives and involvement of patients and families in decision-making, have been shown to reduce inappropriate care at the end of life, leading to both lower cost and more humane care.”
More on Berwick:
Obama has doubled down on his unpopular Obamacare. The President ducked Senate confirmation and instead used a recess appointment to make Dr. Donald Berwick administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Berwick will be responsible for implementing portions of Obamacare. CMS has an annual budget of some $800 billion and is responsible for the heathcare of 100 million Americans.
Conservatives are angry that the President used his extraordinary power to avoid a public hearing, which would have generated testimony from Dr. Berwick and may have exposed him as being too extreme to run CMS.
Berwick’s public statements often raise eyebrows. Regarding end-of-life care, he told the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2002 that “most people who have serious pain do not need advanced methods, they just need the morphine and counseling that have been available for centuries.” This troubling statement doesn’t give much confidence to seniors that, as a bureaucrat, Berwick will care about costly end-of-life treatment when rationing Obamacare’s “benefits.”
The doctor also professed his love for Britain’s Socialist healthcare system and favors a single-payer government-run system for Americans. He wrote in 1996 that “I admit to my own devotion to a single-payer mechanism as the only sensible approach to healthcare finance that I can think of.” President Obama avoided a public hearing for Dr. Berwick when he used the special appointment power used by President Bush and objected to by Senate Democrats at the time.
Background on QALY ("quality-adjusted-life-year") that Berwick is instrumental in popularizing in health policy circles:
If you are under the impression that it is impossible to calculate the value of a human life, you are obviously not a progressive policy expert or health care bureaucrat. This calculation, so elusive for philosophers and sages throughout the millennia, is child's play for such people. They have, in fact, already devised a formula for pricing out your life. It is called the "quality-adjusted-life-year" (QALY), and it assigns a numerical value to a year of life. A year of perfect health, for example, is given a value of 1.0 while a year of sub-optimum health is rated between 0 and 1. If you are confined to a wheelchair, a year of your life might be valued at half that of your ambulatory neighbor. If you are blind or deaf, you also score low. All that remains is to assign a specific dollar value to the QALY and, voilà, your life has a price tag.
And, lest you imagine that QALY is mere academic concept unlikely to be applied in the real world, it is already being used in countries burdened with socialized medicine. In Great Britain, for example, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) uses "cost per QALY" to determine if patients should receive expensive treatment or drugs. It was with this formula that NICE calculated the precise amount six months of an average Brit's life is worth. As the Wall Street Journal reports, "NICE currently holds that, except in unusual cases, Britain cannot afford to spend more than about $22,000 to extend a life by six months." In other words, patients whose country has guaranteed them "free" health care are in some cases refused treatment because the incremental cost per additional QALY is too high.
Death Panel type decisions have already started:
According to Sally Pipes, president of the Pacific Research Institute, the FDA’s decision is not based on the best outcome for patients but instead on the expense of Avastin, produced by Genentech, which can run as high as $90,000 per year for a single patient.
“The FDA claims its decision had nothing to do with Avastin's cost and was based solely on the drug's medical effectiveness,” Pipes said. “This isn't believable. Every year about 40,000 American women die from breast cancer. Avastin is the last hope for many not to meet that fate. While the drug is costly, it often provides immense benefits to patients.”
Avastin works by cutting off blood flow to tumors, and it has been used by thousands of women to treat late-stage breast cancer. Pipes points out clinical studies have shown improved survival rates for women who use the drug.
“By restricting blood flow to tumors, the medicine can decelerate cancer growth. In one clinical trial, 52 percent of women saw their tumors stop expanding or spreading. Some have gained years of extended life.
“Most major cancer groups think that's enough. Susan G. Komen and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance urged the FDA to maintain approval of the drug, arguing that treatment choices should be left to patients and doctors—not a government agency,” Pipes added.
As I noted above, I have no problem with the concept of rationing medical care, my problem is with the centralizing of that decision making authority. This is where I part company with conservatives who oppose ObamaCare - they pretend that we can continue to have a system characterized by no rationing. They're delusional if they actually believe that. My position is to put the rationing decision into the hands of the patient and/or immediate family.