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American Seniors Association Weighs In on Health Care

Obamacare, no; targeted reforms, yes.

It is appropriate that the American people and their elected representatives in Congress have time in coming weeks to study and vigorously debate the various radical health care bills supported by President Barack Obama.

The American Seniors Association, which represents hundreds of thousands of members nationwide, has several major concerns. First, any government-run plan is bound to limit patient-doctor choice. Second, the House bill includes an employer mandate that would kill jobs and lower wages. Indeed, the current House legislation attacks baby boomers and seniors — in fact, every American–  by underwriting the $1.6 trillion healthcare price tag with new taxes and by cutting $500 billion out of Medicare over the next 10 years.

Particularly incredible is a section of the House bill mandating that a senior citizen must go to counseling every five years with a government “medical expert” in order to basically learn how to prepare to die. The president pooh-poohs criticism of this counseling clause, saying it is exaggerated. But Oregon is already denying some cancer patients care that could extend their lives, and instead offers them physician-assisted suicide. Critics who feared this would happen were also initially ridiculed.

A former New York lieutenant governor, Dr. Betsy McCaughey, lays out this assault on seniors by noting that it began with the stimulus bill passed in February. She writes:

“Slipped into the bill was substantial funding for comparative effectiveness research, which is generally code for limiting care based on a patient’s age. Economists are familiar with the formula, where the cost of treatment is divided by the number of years (called QUALYs, or quality-adjusted life years) that the patient is likely to benefit.”  

When comparative effectiveness research appeared in that legislation, Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., a heart surgeon, joined other medical experts in warning that it would lead to “denying seniors and the disabled lifesaving care.”

It is a myth that living longer burdens society. Dr. Herbert Pardes, CEO of the New York Presbyterian Medical Center, cites Medicare data that a patient who dies at age 67 spends three times as much on health care at the end of life as a patient who lives to 90. So is one idea behind this current House legislation to let baby boomers and seniors die more quickly so the government doesn’t have to care for them in old age?  If that is a plan you believe in, then you must be a sadomasochist.

Medicare, even though it has imperfections and waste that must be addressed, still provides good value for those living into old age. Every current version of Obamacare legislation would end that good life.

Camille Paglia, a liberal Democrat writer, eviscerates Obamacare perhaps more shrilly than any conservative pundit to date. Consider:

“You can keep your doctor; you can keep your insurance, if you’re happy with it, Obama keeps assuring us in soothing, lullaby tones. Oh, really? And what if my doctor is not the one appointed by the new government medical boards for ruling on my access to tests and specialists? And what if my insurance company goes belly up because of undercutting by its government-bankrolled competitor? Face it: virtually all nationalized health systems, neither nourished nor updated by profit-driven private investment, eventually leads to rationing.

Paglia’s specific criticism of Obama, which ASA shares, is withering. “Frankly,” she writes, “the president gives little sense of direct knowledge of medical protocols; it’s as if his views are a tissue of hearsay and scatter-shot worst-case scenarios.”

Yes, there should be health care reform. But our organization believes it should be targeted legislative reform involving waste, fraud and profiteering in the health care and insurance industries. There are reasonable, bipartisan health care solutions — but expensive government bureaucratic controls, reducing access to medical treatments and counseling seniors about shortening their lives are most certainly not among them.

Written By

Mr. Barton is President of the American Seniors Association.

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