2010-07-17 / Editorials & Letters

On the road to national health care

The path to national health care got clearer last week. That’s when President Obama used a recess appointment to install Donald Berwick to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Such appointments, done when Congress is on recess, allows the nomination to bypass the normally required Senate confirmation process. If you missed the news, you have plenty of company since the move attracted scant attention from the national media. It’s sort of a “Don’t tell, so we can’t ask” policy.

Berwick was nominated for the government’s key health care post nearly three months ago, but Democrats still hadn’t even scheduled committee hearings on his appointment. With the election season drawing closer, Democrats don’t want to reignite the debate over ObamaCare.

A public airing of his views and statements would be like throwing gasoline on the smoldering health care debate and with good reason. Dr. Berwick is a big fan of European government health services that ration care. Two years ago in London, he said, “I am romantic about the (British) National Health Service. I love it.” Last year Berwick said, “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care – the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.”

Democrats simply couldn’t stand public discussion of his comments and his strong support for bureaucratic control of health care. In a 1996 book, he wrote about constraining “decentralized, individual decision making.” Berwick believes in command and control health care and that with the right data the “best way” can be determined. A ‘best way’ flies in the face of much of current medical innovation that, for example, tailors cancer treatments to genetic patterns.

A ‘best way’ that works say 80 percent of the time sounds good in theory until you or a loved one is in the other 20 percent. But with ‘free’ ObamaCare for everyone, Berwick knows that we can’t afford specialized treatments. So if the ‘best way’ doesn’t work for you, the broader public welfare will trump private choices – your choice.

It is particularly ironic that this stealth appointment came just one week before the publication of a major policy initiative by the British National Health Service. The paper’s foreword states, “We will make the NHS more accountable to patients. We will free staff from excessive bureaucracy and top-down control.” This new direction comes after 62 years of top-down control. The foreword continues, “First, patients will be at the heart of everything we do. So they will have more choice and control…Patients will be in charge of making decisions about their care.” It continues, “Success will be measured, not through bureaucratic process targets, but against results that really matter to patients – such as improving cancer and stroke survival rates…Doctors and nurses must be able to use their professional judgement about what is right for patients…Healthcare will be run from the bottom up, with ownership and decision-making in the hands of professionals and patients.”

Wow – just a few sentences in the foreword, signed by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State of Health, clearly sums up why national health care doesn’t serve patients well. It didn’t take a genius to come up with the stated goals. They SHOULD be the basic premises for any health care system.

After 60 some years of tinkering, National Commission recommendations, thousands of studies, and policy directives, the National Health Service is still trying to put “decision-making in the hands of professionals and patients.” The odds that this latest initiative will succeed after years of failed efforts at reform is very small. Government control is simply incompatible with patient choice.

ObamaCare is a speeding train, ignoring public opinion and thousands of caution lights, taking our imperfect, yet still patient-oriented health care into a disastrous crash with government control. Meanwhile, the NHS – the so-called flagship of national health care – is trying to escape the effects of government domination. Are we stupid, naive or just prefer government control over our lives?

Thankfully, we can still derail the ObamaCare train before it destroys our health care with government control. But that means supporting politicians this November that are committed to repeal. That’s NOT Lee Fisher or Zack Space!

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