Thursday, February 12, 2009
Byron Richards, CCN
Under the cover of emergency economic legislation the front wave of an entire new system of health care is being pushed on Americans. The strategy for this ploy was once explained by Obama’s former appointee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, and now exposed tax cheat, Senator Tom Daschle. Daschle spells out the plan on pages 196-197 of his book, Critical – What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis, “The next president should act immediately to capitalize on the goodwill that greets any incoming administration. If that means attaching a health-care plan to the federal budget, so be it. This issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol.” In other words, public debate should be avoided, forget about democracy – so that Obama-care does not meet the same fate as Hillary-care.
In the last few days a debate on this issue has blown up on national TV, talk radio, and the internet. It began with an article published on Bloomberg titled, “Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan” by Betsy McCaughey. McCaughey says the plan could be used to ration care to the elderly, putting government, not doctors, in charge of what care will be delivered. She has been interviewed on Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck. Fox News, the Drudge Report, and even Rush Limbaugh have spread the news. Limbaugh warned his listening audience that their patient privacy was at stake and that “Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system.” The bottom line of their messages: quality of care and type of care will not be determined by the doctor, but rather by a new system of cost containment implemented by the federal government.
Democrats have found themselves on the defense. While getting grilled on FOX news Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said, “There is nothing in this legislation that interferes with a doctor making a decision, with the patient, on what is appropriate care. What is in this legislation is an effort to make sure we share information – generically, appropriately – so doctors and medical providers can have the best information, but there’s nothing in this bill that compromises the decision-making between the doctor and the patient.”
Democratic websites have attacked McCaughey, saying she is reading more into the bill than is actually there. She has fired back, saying the health-care language in the bill has nothing whatsoever to do with new jobs and jump starting the economy. She says, “Americans deserve an open and honest debate about creating a federal healthcare infrastructure of this magnitude. These health provisions should be removed from the stimulus bill and offered to Congress in separate legislation.”
We even have Scott Gottlieb getting into the discussion, the former second in command at the FDA, who during his time at the FDA advocated the industry-friendly position that Americans should be exposed to dangerous and expensive drug experiments and have no right to recourse if they are injured. Now he says, “The bill will be used to create guidelines to direct doctors’ treatment of difficult, high-cost medical problems.” His statement means that Big Pharma and Big Biotech are really concerned that their future cash-cow experiments may not be covered by the new plan.
Indeed, Big Pharma was really upset about parts of the plan that called for spending government money to try and compare the effectiveness of drugs, one to another. This provision has now been changed based on intense lobbying over the past few days. Such a provision would have been really bad news for Big Pharma, as it would quickly be discovered that their drugs hardly work at all to produce positive health outcomes, especially in preventive medicine. For a more comprehensive understanding of Big Pharma in relation to the health care handouts in this bill, read my article “Is Obama Bailing Out Big Pharma’s Bursting Bubble.”
The Hill website reported in early December that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) wanted health IT in the stimulus bill to help avoid a fight on healthcare early in 2009 when lawmakers were drafting broader healthcare legislation. “There are going to be certain costs of healthcare reform — upfront costs. If I can put some of those upfront costs in the so-called stimulus bill, I’d rather put them there….We’ve got to create a very significant upfront effort early on and keep the momentum going on healthcare,” said Baucus, who added he was in regular contact with the Obama team, Kennedy and other key lawmakers.
Several things are certain. Health IT has nothing to do with meaningful stimulus for the economy. It is in the stimulus bill to get its own financial stimulus, helping to jump start Obama-care without any public debate.
The Scope of Obama’s Health IT
In the 680 page House version of the stimulus bill (H.R.1.E.H., pdf version), almost 200 pages are spent on Health IT (434-627). Right away you can understand that this is a comprehensive piece of legislation, taking up almost 1/3 of the bill. The legislation establishes within the Department of Health and Human Services an Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, which will be headed by a National Coordinator. This is like creating a new FDA, meaning the size of this new branch of government will end up quite large. It states various admirable purposes, such as ensuring electronic health information is secure and that it is used to better patient care. An overall goal is to have an electronic health record for every American by 2014 (page 445).
This is not a passive IT system that is collecting data. It is intended to be used as a tool to deploy a type of care it deems appropriate based on government employees making policy-related health decisions, with a stated purpose so the IT system “provides appropriate information to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care.” (page 442)
Anybody reading this legislation quickly realizes that it is much more than a health IT system. It is a new type of health care with a blank check on expanding its regulatory powers to accomplish anything it deems appropriate. For example, on page 447 it reads, “REPORT ON ADDITIONAL FUNDING OR AUTHORITY NEEDED.—Not later than 12 months after the date of the enactment of this title, the National Coordinator shall submit to the appropriate committees of jurisdiction of the House of Representatives and the Senate a report on any additional funding or authority the Coordinator or the HIT Policy Committee or HIT Standards Committee requires to evaluate and develop standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria, or to achieve full participation of stakeholders in the adoption of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure that allows for the electronic use and exchange of health information.”
A short version of this is “the National Coordinator shall report on any additional authority required to achieve full participation of stakeholders.” In other words, everyone will play ball and or else the National Coordinator must seek more power to be able to get everyone in line.
The legislation makes it clear that this is not just about your personal health. On page 455 it says, “the HIT Policy Committee may consider the following additional areas: The appropriate uses of a nation wide health information infrastructure, including for purposes of biosurveillance and public health.” This approves the use of your health information for military-related needs and other public health measures (meaning did you get all your vaccinations? etc.). It is not at all a stretch of the imagination to interpret this to mean that your electronic health record will be used to ensure you are in compliance with public health initiatives.
The legislation specifically mandates compliance by the private sector, page 470: “SEC. 4112. APPLICATION TO PRIVATE ENTITIES. Each agency (relating to promoting quality and efficient health care in Federal government administered or sponsored health care programs) shall require in contracts or agreements with health care providers, health plans, or health insurance issuers that as each provider, plan, or issuer implements, acquires, or upgrades health information technology systems, it shall utilize, where available, health information technology systems and products that meet standards and implementation specifications.”
In other words, all health professionals are required to abide by the standards of care that are determined in conjunction with the cost containment and “best practices” ideas of the federal government, whatever they may be. This means that the government is directly telling doctors how to practice medicine, and even what kind of medicine is allowed, contrary to what Senator Cardin told FOX news.
The theme and importance of conforming to the government’s idea of medical care is further spelled out in the section on the MEDICARE PROGRAM - INCENTIVES FOR ELIGIBLE PROFESSIONALS. This section introduces the term “meaningful user,” which is repeatedly used in the context of a health professional who is conforming to whatever the IT system tells them to do with their patients. It offers them bonuses up to $15,000 per year to comply with the IT health guidelines. (page 513) This means your doctor’s bonus could be more important than the right decision for your health.
The goal is to get doctors in the loop and then force them to comply with guidelines of care: “The Secretary shall seek to improve the use of electronic health records and health care quality over time by requiring more stringent measures of meaningful use.” (page 518) This is an open-ended and vaguely defined approach that could mean almost anything.
Freedom and Choice are Being Sacrificed
The price of this legislation cannot be measured in dollars. The price of this legislation should be measured in your loss of freedom, loss of privacy, and loss of choice relating to your own health. The government will want your DNA in its database next. It will want a chip in your arm to really keep track of you and your health. One thing will lead to another.
This legislation represents a broad and sweeping change in the type of care you will be able to receive. And that care will be set by the government, by unelected bureaucrats with who knows what agenda.
If this is what Americans really want then it should be debated and discussed openly on its merits. Freedom is not easily regained once it is lost. Once upon a time the people of Germany had a truly advanced health care system called the “freedom to cure.” It encouraged alternative health practitioners to practice side by side with medical doctors, offering true freedom of choice, all in the best interests of the patient. That was a long time ago.
In the name of public health, those freedoms were set aside for the rise of a socialist system. It was recognized that health freedom fostered mental health and free thinking citizens, and those rights were not compatible with socialism. Health freedom and general health choice were obliterated in the name of the greater good. The government had control. Even though Hitler was stopped, Germany has never regained its health freedom and today has one of the most repressive socialist health care systems on earth.
Certainly we want to do what we can to help Americans who are struggling with health problems, especially when those problems were not created by their own poor choices. It is simply not right to sacrifice our identity as a free people to accomplish that objective.
Emergency Call to Action
The only chance to stop sweeping health care reform, which is being pushed through without any public debate, is to flood the Senate with objection to the Health Care IT portion of the bill – demanding its removal from the Stimulus bill. The Senate is expected to vote on Friday. In addition to calling and faxing your own Senators, also let the three Republican Senators who are supporting this legislation know that you are opposed to Health IT, which is really major health care reform, being included in the Stimulus bill. Simply say, “I adamantly object to the Health IT provision in the Stimulus bill, which are designed to drastically change health care and are not relevant to stimulus. Americans deserve an open and honest debate on this very important topic. These health IT provisions should be removed from the Stimulus bill and offered to Congress in separate legislation.”
Contact Your Senators
Capitol Switchboard – (202) 224-3121
Or find your Senator’s contact information online by clicking here
The Three Key Senators to Also Contact:
Collins, Susan M. - (R - ME)—Direct: (202) 224-2523, Fax: (202) 224-2693
Specter, Arlen - (R - PA)—Direct: (202) 224-4254, Fax: 202-228-1229
Snowe, Olympia J. - (R - ME)—Direct: (202) 224-5344, Fax: (202) 224-1946
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