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EDITORIAL: Rationing health care
It doesn't matter what your doctor says; the Obama administration plans to decide if you will have cancer treatment or heart surgery.
Appearing on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Lawrence H. Summers, President Obama's chief economic adviser, stated, "Whether it's tonsillectomies or hysterectomies ... procedures are done three times as frequently [in some parts of the country than others] and there's no benefit in terms of the health of the population. And by doing the right kind of cost-effectiveness, by making the right kinds of investments and protection, some experts ... estimate that we could take as much as $700 billion a year out of our health care system."
Let's be clear - Mr. Summers is talking about rationing. Total health care expenditures in the United States in 2008 came to $2.5 trillion. The implication of his statement is that health care expenditures can be cut by almost 30 percent. That's a major amputation to the system. Mr. Summers tried to kill the pain by saying it all wouldn't have to be cut right away. That's only comforting if it's not your loved one's transplant that bureaucrats reject.
The hypocrisy is enough to make a heart stop. A White House that doesn't think government should intervene between a doctor and a woman deciding whether to have an abortion has no problem telling doctors whether they can perform tonsillectomies or hysterectomies.
Because statistics are being used selectively in determining what procedures are too common, we recommend some relevant numbers. In 2000, New York had 501 abortions per 1,000 live births while Wyoming had one. New York had 31 abortions per 1,000 women while Wyoming had fewer than one. Blacks have abortions at three times the rate of whites. Abortion procedures rarely involve the health of the mother. These disparities are 10 to 167 times greater than the 3-to-1 ratio that so upsets Mr. Summers for other procedures, yet presumably, Mr. Summers would never imply that abortions should be rationed. He won't claim that blacks should be limited in the number of abortions they can have.
This goes to show that the Obama administration isn't confident enough to simply explain to people what medical procedures the government would allow Americans to have under Mr. Obama's plan. It also marks another broken campaign promise by the president. "If you got health insurance, then you can keep it," he assured last year, "and we won't do anything about that." Now, just three months into office, Mr. Obama's advisers are complaining that Americans are getting too much health care.
Nationalized health care puts bureaucrats - not doctors - in charge of deciding who needs what medical treatment. Rationing is inevitable under these schemes. That's one reason Mr. Obama's universal heath care plans must be stopped.
By John R. Bolton
The president fiddles at his domestic altar while the world burns
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