The Rationer-in-Chief

By Conn Carroll

When Linda O’Boyle was diagnosed with bowel cancer, her doctors told her she could boost her
chances of survival by adding the drug cetuximab to her regimen. But the rationing body for
Britain’s National Health Service, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence
(NICE), had previously ruled that the drug was not cost-effective and therefore would not be
paid for by the government. So O’Boyle liquidated her savings and paid for the drug herself.
But this is not allowed under NHS rules. When government bureaucrats found out that O’Boyle
had purchased the drug with her own money, she was denied NHS treatment and died within months

Defenders of Britain’s health care rationing system may try to claim that this tragic death
is an outlier in an otherwise acceptable government run health care system. They are wrong.
It is the point of the system. As socialized medicine and infanticide advocate Peter Singer
has argued in The New York Times, the NICE bureaucrats must ration care or else free
government health care would bankrupt the British economy. “NICE had set a general limit
of £30,000, or about $49,000, on the cost of extending life for a year,” Singer writes.
Following this logic, Singer supported NICE’s decision not to allow British citizens the
cancer fighting drug Sutent
. As a result of this, and many other rationing
decisions Britain, has one of the lowest cancer survival rates in the Western world.
While 60.3% of men and 61.7% of women in Sweden survive a cancer diagnosis, in Britain the
figure ranges between 40.2% to 48.1% for men and 48% to 54.1% for women. And NICE’s
rationing has not just hit cancer patients. Doctors have warned that patients with terminal
illnesses are being made to die prematurely under the NHS rationing scheme. And according
to the Patients Association, one million NHS patients have been the victims of appalling
care in hospitals across Britain.

Most Americans would find this harrowing. But not President Barack Obama. Yesterday he bypassed
the Senate confirmation process and used a recess appointment to install Dr. Donald Berwick to
be the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS is the agency that
runs the Medicare and Medicaid programs). Dr. Berwick said of Britain’s health care
system: “Cynics beware, I am romantic about the National Health Service; I love it.” And his
love for Britain’s health care system is not in spite of its rationing, but because of it.
In 2009 Dr. Berwick told Biotechnology Healthcare: “NICE is extremely effective and a
conscientious and valuable knowledge-building system. … The decision is not whether or not we
will ration care – the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.”

The fact that the White House chose to empower Dr. Berwick by recess appointment is
particularly audacious. The recess appointment power was intended to be used for occasions
when the Senate is out for months at a time. The Senate is currently out of session for
just 11 days. Worse, the Senate majority has never even scheduled a hearing so that
Dr. Berwick’s rationing views could be given an “open” forum. In fact, Dr. Berwick has not
even returned Senators’ written questionnaires.
The White House defends the move
by claiming “there’s no time to waste with Washington game-playing.” But then why did the Obama
administration wait until April 2010, a full 15 months after President Obama was sworn
into office, to nominate Dr. Berwick? Is it because they did not want Dr. Berwick’s well known
and public support for rationing health care to affect the debate over Obamacare?

In a 2005 interview with Health Affairs, Dr. Berwick said: “(G)overnment is an
extraordinarily important player in the American health care scene, and it has inescapable
duties with respect to improvement of care, or we’re not going to get improved care. Government
remains a major purchaser. … So as CMS goes and as Medicaid goes, so goes the system.” And that
was before Obamacare gave far reaching new powers to government bureaucrats.

In June of 2009, President Obama told the American Medical Association that “identifying
what works is not about dictating what kind of care should be provided.” Moreover, the
president has assured the public time and again that the government will not get between
patients and their doctors. His nomination of Don Berwick for Director of CMS, however, tells
a different story [8].

Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.: – URL to article

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *