Tuesday, September 08, 2009


We elected a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate, so doesn't it make sense to get all our ideas about health care reform from a libertarian think tank?



UPDATE, WEDNESDAY MORNING: Yes, Palin brings "death panels" back:

In an interview with the New York Times in April, the president suggested that such a group, working outside of "normal political channels," should guide decisions regarding that "huge driver of cost ... the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives ...."

Given such statements, is it any wonder that many of the sick and elderly are concerned that the Democrats' proposals will ultimately lead to rationing of their health care by -- dare I say it -- death panels?

And a few minutes ago, Newt Gingrich was on NPR(!) doing his bit to revive the "death panels" canard. Folks, we never put a stake in the heart of this toxic talking point, and now it's coming back full force. A partial transcript of Gingrich's NPR interview:

There has been, in this past summer, a fair amount of misinformation put out about this health care overhaul, including something quite well known -- and, many think, quite egregious -- and that's the fabricated claim that proposals would create death panels. Where do you stand on this type of rhetoric?

Look, I'm fascinated by the intense hostility in the news media to the suggestion that what Dr. Zeke Emanuel wrote about communal standards ...

That is, Dr. Zeke Emanuel -- President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's brother.

Right, and who is in the White House and who has been an adviser -- and people read his writing. Nobody made this up. They read his writing, and his writing suggests, quite clearly, that if we have a communal standard, maybe if you were too old, you shouldn't get certain care; maybe if you were born with a variety of handicaps, you shouldn't get certain care.

Although, he's already spoken out and said that he was laying out possibilities, not suggesting them -- and, also, it doesn't much matter what he wrote, because none of this is in the bills.

Well, but the bill does create commissions which would have enormous sweeping power. And now you want us to trust that they are only going to appoint doctors and other people to these commissions that don't read any of this material. Now, so those of us who look at, "What is a government-run system like?", we come up with a much different sense of how dangerous it could be than people who happen to like big government.

So you think it's fine to use language like "death panels"?

I think it's fine to say to people, "Be very careful the amount of power you are going to give bureaucrats."

I don't need to remind you that Gingrich was for "death panels" set up by "bureaucrats" before he was against them.

Gingrich used to assert that we'd have more "death panels" -- and it would be a good thing, too -- if politicians had more courage:

Let me give you an example that I find fascinating. In LaCrosse, Wisc., the Gundersen Lutheran Hospital system is, according to the Dartmouth [Atlas of Health Care], the least expensive place in America for the last two years of life. They have an advanced directive program, and over 90 percent of their patients have an advanced directive. They have electronic health records, so everybody on the staff knows what the advanced directive is. They have a very strong palliative care program for using drugs to manage pain. They have a hospice program.

The result is today, the last two years of your life in costs are about $13,600. The last two years of your life at UCLA are $58,000. Now, why should Medicare pay $58,000 for the same outcome if it could pay $13,600? You can say, well, Los Angeles is more expensive; they do a couple of more complicated things. So fine. So let's say it ought to be $20,000 at UCLA. That’s still [$38,000] less than it currently is. ...

We don't think the politicians can ever fix this because the hospital lobby is so powerful, and the doctor lobby is so powerful, and the pharmaceutical lobby is so powerful, and the medical technology lobby is so powerful...

Oh, and, by coincidence, the libertarian wonk cited in the Palin-bylined op-ed, Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute, has said we'd have more and better comparative effectiveness research -- which Republicans also now tell us will kill Granny -- if politicians had more courage:

We desperately need research on the effectiveness of medical treatments, and the law includes $1 billion for that. Yet experience suggests the benefits of taxpayer-funded research may be zero. Historically, every time a federal agency produces research that questions the value of some medical treatment, health care providers convince Congress to shoot the messenger. I've been meaning to look this up, but that may be the only reason Congress ever eliminates federal agencies.

Would some reporter please read these quotes to Sarah Palin -- without attribution -- and ask her for her thoughts on them?

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