Betsy McCaughey, who helped lead the charge against the Clintons’ health care legislation, has a must-read column about “Obamacare” in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Her piece is called “GovernmentCare’s Assault on Seniors” and the title is apt. McCaughey argues persuasively that the legislation currently being pushed in Congress would “reduce access to care, pressure the elderly to end their lives prematurely, and doom baby boomers to painful later years.”
McCaughey notes that the House bill shifts resources from specialty medicine to primary care based on the notion that Americans overuse specialist care and drive up costs in the process. But this, she argues, is a misconception. For example, “heart-disease patients treated by generalists instead of specialists are often misdiagnosed and treated incorrectly.” As a result, “they are readmitted to the hospital more frequently, and die sooner.”
The Democrats seem to be operating on the premise that longevity is a burden to society. Thus, they have pushed for “comparative effectiveness research,” which McCaughey calls “code for limiting care based on the patient’s age.” In Britain, comparative effectiveness formulas had led to denying treatments for older patients who have fewer years to benefit from care than younger patients.
McCaughey points out, however, that “a patient who dies at 67 spends three times as much on health care at the end of life as a patient who lives to 90.” The real cost to society results when the elderly become disabled. For it turns out that nondisabled seniors use only one-seventh as much health care as disabled seniors (they don’t need nursing homes, vast amounts of intensive care, etc.). Moreover, medical procedures such as heart valve replacement and knee and hip replacement have had a major impact on steadily reducing disability rates, thus decreasing costs.
By shifting resources away from specialty care, by cutting Medicare by $500 billion, and eventually by rationing health care based on the concept of comparative effectiveness, “Obamacare” would put an end to this virtuous cycle. It would also substantially reduce the quality of life for seniors.
But don’t worry; McCaughey notes that Obamacare will provide seniors with counseling on end-of-life options, including refusing nutrition where state law allows it.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
I’m reminded of my Dad’s experience, which will resonate with many of your readers I suspect. My Dad had a valve replacement operation at 72. Before the operation he could not walk 10 feet and his quality of life had deteriorated to a very poor state. Afterwards, he was fit again and enjoyed another 16+ years of high quality, low medical bill life, finally dying just shy of 90.
It scares me to think that some bureaucrat might have said to him, “Sorry but you’re too old for this surgery. Let us talk with you about your right to forego nourishment so as not to burden your family for too long.”
(The euthanasia centers is “Soylent Green” were quite nice, on the other hand…)