Dr. Feelgood, USA

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

When academics help to craft a law, they can take a leave of absence to shepherd it through Congress, then go back to class to proclaim its virtues. The rest of us get to live under the statute.

“The new Obama health law puts important decisions about your care in the hands of presidential appointees,” Betsy McCaughey wrote in her 2010 pamphlet, Obama Health Law: What it says and how to overturn it (Encounter Books). “They will decide what insurance plans cover, how much leeway your doctor will have, and what seniors get under Medicare.”

“Chief among these advisors is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.”  Since McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York, typed those words, Rahm Emanuel has become mayor of Chicago while his brother has landed at the University of Pennsylvania where he serves as vice-provost and professor.

“Dr. Emanuel has already been appointed to two key positions: health policy advisor at the Office of Management and Budget and member of the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research,” McCaughey noted of his White House years. “Dr. Emanuel says that health care reform will not be pain-free and that the usual recommendations for cutting medical spending (often urged by the president) are mere window dressing.”

McCaughey offers extensive quotes from the good doctor which appeared in the popular press and in medical journals. Since these were his advice, as quoted in public, one might wonder what chilling, hair-raising counsel he offered his brother and his boss privately.

“Vague promises of savings from cutting waste, enhancing prevention and wellness, installing electronic medical records, and improving quality are merely ‘lipstick’ cost control, more for show and public relations than for true change,” Dr. Emanuel wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association on February 27, 2008.

Dr. Emanuel gave us an idea of what true change would involve. “When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated,” he wrote in an article which appeared in The Lancet on January 31, 2009.

“Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination,” he explained. “Treating 65-year-olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist: Treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org