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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

They Know A Lot About A Little Of Nothing

In another Facebook proclamation, Palin goes chasing her favorite windmill, the ever illusive "death panel". But there's one problem, she's now changing her story:

...Democrats are protecting this rationing “death panel” from future change with a procedural hurdle. You have to ask why they’re so concerned about protecting this particular provision. Could it be because bureaucratic rationing is one important way Democrats want to “bend the cost curve” and keep health care spending down?
The Congressional Budget Office seems to think that such rationing has something to do with cost. In a letter to Harry Reid last week, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf noted (with a number of caveats) that the bill’s calculations call for a reduction in Medicare’s spending rate by about 2 percent in the next two decades, but then he writes the kicker:
“It is unclear whether such a reduction in the growth rate could be achieved, and if so, whether it would be accomplished through greater efficiencies in the delivery of health care or would reduce access to care or diminish the quality of care.”

Though Nancy Pelosi and friends have tried to call “death panels” the “lie of the year,” this type of rationing – what the CBO calls “reduc[ed] access to care” and “diminish[ed] quality of care” – is precisely what I meant when I used that metaphor.

That's not precisely a lie that this is what she initially meant, but it's far from the solid truth as Palin's initial "death-panel" meme was spoon fed to her by her handlers. The phrase "death panel" was initially coined by Betsy McCaughey in relation to "end of life" or "hospice" care that was mentioned back in the early stages of the legislation. And while rationing was essentially an ancillary character within the overall "death-panel" fear-tactic, it's primary focus was on a person(s) visiting an elderly or invalid person's home and helping them die. Aside from that, the CBO never stated that rationing had to be done, just that there was enough gray-area there to make rank speculation. And that's precisely what is being done.

Never-the-less, Palin feels that she can celebrate as if she has discovered this evil secret that Obama is out to destroy the entire country via "rationing". But she's not alone in her imagined victory. Ed Morrissey, who fancies himself an expert in all things, not only proceeded to suckle at the metaphorical teet of Sarah Palin, but to decry then excuse rationing within the same paragraph.

All health care gets rationed in one manner or another, as does every commodity (except air, although with cap-and-trade, that would change). Insurers ration, and so do consumers in a fully free-market system such as the Lasik or cosmetic-surgery industries. The difference is that those systems involve free choice, especially the latter. With insurers as third-party payers, there is less free choice, but the solution to that is more competition and better ability to be completely portable — or better yet, the removal of third-party payers for normal health care services.

At first blush, Morrissey seems to think that rationing is by insurance companies is just fine, as it is part of his precious "free-market capitalism". But outside this invisible and poorly defined system that Morrissey and Palin claim to know so much about, what would they quantify as "rationing"? Would they consider it rationing that there is only one MRI machine in a three county area in rural Western Kentucky? Could it be rationing is non-essential services like cosmetic surgeries be moved from one area of a state to another? How about a reduction of a surplus of medicines or services in order to assist another region of a state? There's lots of things that would be considered rationing but are nothing more than improved business practices that will, in the end, reduce cost and waste.

But beyond all this, one has to ask the question - if people like Palin and Morrissey continually tell people that no one has read the bill, then where are they getting this information? Virtually every Republican Senator and Congressman has said the same, that no one knows what's in the bill. So how can they make such outlandish claims. By and large, these are nothing more than speculative statements that serve no greater purpose than to inflame, confuse, and distort.

Palin and Morrissey may think they have been vindicated, but the truth is that "death panels" don't exist.

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