Remember the Death Panels?

Sarah Palin stirred up a fuss in 2010 when she tweeted a reference to ObamaCare's "Death Panels." While ObamaCare did not explicitly give the government the power to ration health care, Governor Palin was correct that there are several provisions in ObamaCare that could lead to "backdoor" rationing.

Governor Palin's "death panel" tweet was a reference to the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The IPAB is a board of "experts" empowered to make "recommendations" on limiting Medicare spending. If Medicare spending exceeds a certain amount, then the Secretary of Health and Human Services must implement the IPAB's recommendations.

The recommendations could include reducing seniors' access to certain medications or type of medical care. ObamaCare does forbid the IPAB from "rationing care," but it allows the board itself to decide which of its recommendations are and are not rationing!

While it is important to reduce Medicare spending, simply denying seniors care is not the proper way to do so. Instead, Congress should use some savings from reductions in other spending--such as overseas spending and corporate welfare--to take care of those currently on the program while we transition out of the current model to one giving individuals more control over their health care--including allowing young people to completely opt out of Medicare. (This was a feature of Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul's Restore America Now Budget Plan.)

Fortunately, Americans are safe (for now) from the IPAB because the Obama Administration has yet to name anyone to the board. However, there are other provisions of ObamaCare that could place restrictions on doctors' ability to practice medicine free from bureaucratic interference and could thus deny patients the best possible treatments.

For example, take a look at section (b) of Section 1311(h) of ObamaCare, titled "QUALITY IMPROVEMENT":

"Beginning on January 1, 2015, a qualified health plan may contract with...

(B) a health care provider only if such provider implements such mechanisms to improve health care quality as the Secretary may by regulation require."

In other words, unless doctors conform their treatments to federal regulations, they will be kicked out of the health insurance system. This is a virtual death sentence for most medical practices.

As part of "mechanisms to improve health care quality," the government could force doctors to use the cheapest treatments and the oldest medications, use global budgets to ration care, limit care for the elderly and disabled, and even order doctors to deny patients care because "the needs of the one must be sacrificed for the needs of the many."

Senators Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, and John Boozman have introduced the Safeguarding Care Of Patients Everywhere (SAFE) Act, which repeals the "Quality Improvement" section of ObamaCare. Georgia Representative Phil Gingery has introduced the House companion. The Senate bill number is S. 2278, and the House number is HR 2283. Campaign for Liberty members may want to call their Senators and Representative and ask that they cosponsor the SAFE Act.

(Hat Tip: Twila Brase of the Citizen's Council on Health Care. When I handled health care issues for Congressman Ron Paul, I worked closely with Twila, and I highly recommend her newsletter to anyone interested in health freedom.)

One final way that the Obama Administration may limit patients' access to treatments is "reference pricing." Reference pricing allows insurance companies to limit how much they will pay for certain procedures, leaving the rest to be paid by patients. Implementation of reference pricing will lead to higher out-of-pocket costs by consumers. Reference pricing may not be a bad thing if done via private contracts formed in a free market. However, reference pricing imposed as part of ObamaCare reference pricing is just one more backdoor means of imposing price controls and rationing. This is especially the case since ObamaCare's limits on Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Savings Accounts, as well as limits  on the amount of health care expenses eligible for an individual tax deduction, make it harder for individuals to pay for their own health care.

Campaign for Liberty continues to work to repeal ObamaCare and restore a true free market in health care.

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