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U.S. Health Chief Sebelius: ‘‘There will be no ‘death panels,’ only groups of people deciding if you live or die.’’

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(attempted) by Ledge Slater, DP intern and official stud

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013,

(WASHINGTON) —Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius again reassured and comforted the public Wednesday about the possibility of there being national “death panels” once the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) is fully implemented.

   While speaking to a group of medical students at George Washington University’s Center for the Perpetuation of Cerebral Disasters, Wednesday afternoon, Sebelius was asked by an Associated Press reporter about the validity of former Vermont Governor and Democrat presidential candidate’s Howard Dean’s claims that Obamacare will indeed set up “death panels,” determining if the “value” of treating patients is worth taxpayer’s dollars.

     Howard “The Scream” Dean, not known for being the most ardent of conservatives or Obama opponents, wrote a critical opinion piece in the Right-leaning Wall Street Journal last month declaring that Obamacare’s “rate–setting provision won’t work,” stating:

“One major problem (of Obamacare) is the so-called Independent Payment Advisory Board. The IPAB is essentially a health-care rationing body. By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them.”

     Dean’s analysis may not exactly echo another former governor, Sarah Palin’s claims years ago that Obamacare would establish “death panels” word-for-word, but generally reflects Palin's warning which was mocked and dismissed by the mainstream press.

   When asked by the AP about Dean’s claim, Secretary Sebelius soothingly put to rest all “death panel” worries, saying, “Look, (the administration) has explained this over and over, and I, for one, am sick of people not getting it.  For the last time: there will be no ‘death panels,’ only groups of people deciding if you live or die.  What’s so hard about distinguishing between the two?  Like, really, gimme a break!”

   The AP and fellow reporters reportedly sat silent, as did the rest of Sebelius’ audience, perplexed by the future overseer (besides the IRS) of President Obama's pending "Obamacare."

   Reporter and intern for Duh Progressive, Ledge Slater, attempted to ask Sebelius to clarify her “no death panel” statement, but was promptly escorted out of GW’s Center for the Perpetuation of Cerebral Disasters by security personnel.

     “Indeed,” continued Sebelius, “there are going to be no death panels…. Just your trusted doctors being forced to cut you off from life-extending treatments if you live to be not 'cost-effective'. So there’s no ‘gotcha!’ moment here.  There’s no ‘lie’ to be discovered and certainly no cause for concern.” 

For more information about the notoriously Right-Winged nutcase Howard Dean’s opposition to “Obamacare,” please read further:

Howard Dean’s piece in Wall Street Journal

Although I've been critical of many components of the law, there is still much to applaud. Accountable Care Organizations could eliminate duplicative services and prevent medical errors while seeking to reduce costs for individuals, particularly if their creation ultimately leads to the end of fee-for-service medicine, as I believe it will. In addition, the Health Insurance Marketplace exchange systems, once implemented, will provide individuals with competitive plan options based on price, services, quality and other factors. Even more important, the exchanges will make the process of securing health insurance much easier and more transparent for millions who don't currently have it.

The administration's decision to delay implementation of the employer mandate until 2015 will help funnel individuals and families who do not get insurance through their employer into the exchanges. While this may benefit the participating insurers in the short term, this also accelerates the trend toward divorcing health care from employment. This is not a radical idea, and was even proposed by Sen. John McCain in his 2008 presidential campaign. That development will lead to the end of job lock for workers and contribute to a more competitive American business community in the longer run.

That said, the law still has its flaws, and American lawmakers and citizens have both an opportunity and responsibility to fix them.

One major problem is the so-called Independent Payment Advisory Board. The IPAB is essentially a health-care rationing body. By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them.

There does have to be control of costs in our health-care system. However, rate setting—the essential mechanism of the IPAB—has a 40-year track record of failure. What ends up happening in these schemes (which many states including my home state of Vermont have implemented with virtually no long-term effect on costs) is that patients and physicians get aggravated because bureaucrats in either the private or public sector are making medical decisions without knowing the patients. Most important, once again, these kinds of schemes do not control costs. The medical system simply becomes more bureaucratic.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has indicated that the IPAB, in its current form, won't save a single dime before 2021. As everyone in Washington knows, but less frequently admits, CBO projections of any kind—past five years or so—are really just speculation. I believe the IPAB will never control costs based on the long record of previous attempts in many of the states, including my own state of Vermont.

If Medicare is to have a secure future, we have to move away from fee-for-service medicine, which is all about incentives to spend more, and has no incentives in the system to keep patients healthy. The IPAB has no possibility of helping to solve this major problem and will almost certainly make the system more bureaucratic and therefore drive up administrative costs.

To date, 22 Democrats have joined Republicans in the House and Senate in support of legislation to do away with the IPAB. Yet because of the extraordinary partisanship on Capitol Hill and Republican threats to defund the law through the appropriations process, it is unlikely that any change in the Affordable Care Act will take place soon.

The IPAB will cause frustration to providers and patients alike, and it will fail to control costs. When, and if, the atmosphere on Capitol Hill improves and leadership becomes interested again in addressing real problems instead of posturing, getting rid of the IPAB is something Democrats and Republicans ought to agree on.

Mr. Dean, governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2002 and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is a strategic adviser to McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP.

 

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