Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Death Panels

A few years ago, Governor Sarah Palin said that if government was allowed to take over the healthcare industry, it would lead to death panels, unelected groups of bureaucrats rationing care and deciding based on their arbitrary criteria who would live and who would die. The predictable outrage and mockery from the left was particularly fierce in this case. She was lambasted as a crazed fringe wacko by the liberal media elite and by Democrat politicians and their backers. After all, government cares and government has good intentions and is not greedy like those evil insurance companies.

Over the past few weeks, it has been revealed that government-run VA hospitals have been denying timely medical attention to thousands of our veterans, resulting in many deaths and great suffering, and they have been covering their tracks by keeping the waiting lists secret, preventing the underlying issue from being addressed and the necessary resources from being obtained to get these American heroes the care they have earned through their service to our nation.

So we have government bureaucrats rationing care, deciding who lives and who dies. Sounds like a death panel.

Back in 2008, Barack Obama said that the VA would be "a leader of national health care reform". It would appear that the disaster of Obamacare is indeed following the lead of the VA. Are we going to follow along, right over the cliff?

A shrewd observer will stop me here to point out that the VA and Obamacare are very different systems. VA is fully government owned and run, while Obamacare still works with private insurance and providers. This is true, to the extent that the VA is government control by ownership, while Obamacare is government control by regulation. When Obamacare fails and leftists demand that it didn't go far enough, that we need a single-payer system, remember the VA. If government can't run a system for the veterans, to whom we all owe a huge debt for the freedom their blood has bought for us, how can it ever run a nationwide single payer healthcare system?

A government run system necessarily involves perverse incentives which do not lead to the desired outcome for the patients. In a private hospital, if a patient comes in with a broken leg, the hospital has to treat that leg in order to be paid. But if that patient shows up at the VA, the administrator gets a bonus for NOT treating the broken leg. His bonus is tied to cutting costs, so the patient is put on the waiting list, and if the waiting list gets too big, they stop reporting the true number of people waiting for treatment.

In 2009, President Obama was asked about the care that 100-year-old Jane Sturm would receive under Obamacare. Jane needed a pacemaker to keep her alive, but Obama said that under Obamacare, "We can let doctors know, and let your mom know, that uhhh maybe this isn't going to help, maybe you're better off uhhhhh not having the surgery, but uhhhh taking the painkiller."

The problem with this exchange is deeper than the coldness of the President's response. Why should the President or the bureaucrats he appoints be deciding if Jane Sturm gets a pacemaker or not? Why should they be telling doctors to just give her a pain pill and let her die? This is not an issue that the Federal government has any business, or Constitutional authority, meddling in. By handing over our health care to the Federal Government, we are giving them vast power over our lives, and that power can be used against us. Under the Obama administration we have seen the weaponization of government, using the IRS, the EPA, the BLM, the NSA, the NLRB, the CFPB, the TSA, and a whole list of other government agencies to force Obama's will on the citizens he is supposed to serve.

Surely the government would not use Obamacare and the IRS, the enforcement branch of Obamacare, to punish its political enemies!

They would use the IRS to punish Tea Party groups and suppress their vote.

They would use the Justice Department to punish the maker of a stupid YouTube video to divert attention from their foreign policy failings.

They would use the EPA to punish oil companies, destroy jobs, and depress the economy, as payback to their radical environmentalist donors.

They would use the NSA to gather information on their political opponents.

They would use the NLRB to shut down an aircraft plant because it was built in a right to work state.

"Let me be clear" (to coin a phrase), Obama will use the power we give him as a weapon against anyone who opposes his mission to fundamentally transform America.

Let's not give him another weapon to add to his arsenal.

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