Breast cancer, Obamacare and choice

If you have any doubts about the future of American health care when Washington runs it, just

cancer.jpg

AP photo by Alex Brandon / October 26, 2009

A pink ribbon to recognize breast cancer awareness is being hung on the north portico of the White House in Washington.

look at the uproar over a government panel's recommendations about breast cancer screening.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an agency in President Barack Obama's
Department of Health and Human Services (not that the president has
anything to do with it), startled the nation last week by recommending
fewer, not more, mammograms for certain American women. Breast cancer
is the nation's most politicized and sensitive health issue, so it's
not surprising that the task force's recommendation created a backlash
that echoed for days.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn,
R-Tenn., who joined other congressmen in criticizing the panel, saw an
implicit warning in the action: "This is the way rationing, which my
colleagues and I have warned about, will begin to enter the marketplace
-- slowly, imperceptibly and lethally."

The White House,
of course, blasted anyone who harbored such thoughts. Deputy
Communications Director Daniel Pfeiffer launched this ad hominem
attack: "One of the hallmark tactics from opponents of health insurance
reform has been to grab onto any convenient piece of information and
twist it into some misguided attack on reform -- no matter how
unrelated it may actually be."

Unrelated? If the White House and Democrats
would take off their blinders, this is exactly what half of Americans
fear about the colossal health care "reform" that has passed the House
and is under debate in the Senate. Here is an "independent" panel of
government-organized and financed "experts" telling Americans what is
best for them. And Americans (not to mention such medical organizations
as the American Cancer Society) do not like what they're hearing.

You
need to consider exactly what's in the health care legislation to
understand why the breast cancer uproar is instructive and frightening.
The legislation provides for the creation of a Health Choices
Administration headed by a Health Choices commissioner. Their job is to
establish "qualified health benefits plan standards . . . including the
enforcement of such standards in coordination with state insurance
regulators and the secretaries of labor and the treasury."

The
commissioner is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The law creating this, the Affordable Care for America Act, goes on at
some length describing their duties. But that's just the beginning
because the duties are described so vaguely that the agency will
certainly pad them out with volumes of clarifying regulations. Don't be
confused. This is not the "public option" we keep hearing so much
about. Whether or not there is a public option, the Health Choices
Administration and its commissioner will decide what treatments and
benefits you will get. This is not some government agency that you will
have a voice in selecting; the law specifies who serves on it, and it's
clearly not you or anyone you elect.

Not all of the decisions
that the administration makes will be as controversial as the task
force's breast cancer recommendation, but most assuredly some of them
will be. Supporters of the Democratic health care bill, of course,
reply that insurance companies can make the same kind of authoritarian
decisions, and on their own decide not to cover certain mammograms.
That's true, but if Congress would accept the Republican proposal to
allow consumers to shop across state lines for their insurance (they
can't now), perhaps a large enough market would be established to find
an insurer that would cover the preventive procedure.

That's
much different than the (ironically named) Health Choices
Administration. It will decide for the entire country what will be
covered in everyone's health policy -- whether it is issued by a
private insurer or through the public option (called the Health
Insurance Exchange).

Now, here's the most important point: The
task force, in its new breast cancer guidelines, is doing precisely
what the health legislation intends to do -- reduce the cost of
American health care by rationing (or "deciding," if you prefer) what
procedures can or should be covered. The task force admits that more
women will die if everyone follows its recommendations, but that's
supposedly worth the price of bringing down health care costs.

Here
we face the reality of health care in America: If you want to bring
down costs, you can look for all kinds of economies, such as a national
computerized health database. But the fact is that health care is so
expensive because we use so much of it. And the only way to cut into
those costs is to crimp what we use. Would that Democrats be honest
enough to acknowledge it.

This column alsoappared in the ChicagoTribune

Comments

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  • Another column full of lies, half-truths, and outright ignorance from Mr. Byrne (the exchange is not the same as the public option Byrnie....do some research.) And a favorite trope of the wingnuts: Insurance companies need to be able to sell across state lines. That would only bring about the same "race to the bottom" we've seen with credit card companies all operating out of North Dakota & Maryland because of their lax regulation. There are 20 states and DC that permit health insurers in their states to deny coverage to victims of domestic violence. That's right....get knocked around by your husband and that's a pre-existing condition barring you from buying health insurance. And the 8 largest insurers operating in those states and DC admit to doing just that. Illinoisans don't have to worry about that, because our state has stronger regulation. But enact Byrne's proposal and every Illinois insurer will close up shop & operate only out of those states with the most lax insurance. Race to the bottom.....that's Byrne's idea of health care reform!

  • This issue is just
    GOP hypocrisy
    As is their M.O.

    Republicans who are complaining about this recommendation have not signed on to support legislation that would require insurance companies to cover cancer screening for all women aged 40 and up.

    Source: http://washingtonindependent.com/68547/republicans-blast-new-mammogram-guidelines-but-havent-supported-bill-ensuring-screenings

    GOP mantra:
    Government bureaucrats - bad"
    They can't be trusted

    On the other hand
    Insurance bureaucrats - "good"
    Don't regulate them

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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