Beware of the New Death Panels

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

Even though the language has been changed, the new health care bill sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has the same “death panel” provision as the House bill, only the “judges” sitting on this new panel are accountants.

According to an editorial appearing in the Washington Times, the offending provision appears on pages 80-81 of the Baucus bill.

“The key sentence: ‘Beginning in 2015, payment would be reduced by five percent if an aggregation of the physician’s resource use is at or above the 90th percentile of national utilization,’” the editorial states. “Translated into plain English, it means that in any year in which a particular doctor’s average per-patient Medicare costs are in the top 10 percent in the nation, the feds will cut the doctor’s payments by 5 percent.”

This will result in giving doctors an incentive to always provide less care for Medicare patients for fear of having their payments docked.

“ . . . (I)f a doctor authorizes expensive care, no matter how successfully, the government will punish him by scrimping on what already is a low reimbursement rate for treating Medicare patients,” the article states.

And because doctors have no way of knowing if he or she is in the top 10 percent range until the end of the year, physicians will always be under pressure to prescribe cheaper care in order to avoid penalties.

“The National Right to Life Committee concludes that this provision will cause a ‘death spiral’ by ‘ensur[ing] that doctors are forced to ration care for their senior citizen patients.’”

For all the trouble – notwithstanding the cost to human lives – this provision will raise a mere $1 billion over six years for the Treasury.

The editorial also points out that rationing care to the elderly is not the least worrisome part of the Baucus proposal. 

“The proposed ‘health care exchange,’ along with Obamacare’s independent review panels and a national health board, will be empowered to make aggregate decisions – based on statistics, not on an individual patient’s needs – about what sorts of care will be allowed and what won’t.”

If enacted, Americans would soon be experiencing what is the norm in Great Britain where thousands of cancer patients die prematurely each year due to lack of treatment because a panel of bureaucrats is deciding on a case-by-case basis who to euthanize.

“The Baucus provision would only exacerbate this bureaucratic preference for death by proxy.”

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