Rush to Rationing

, Brittany Fortier, Leave a comment

Health Care Industry leaders are bent on transforming America’s doctor’s offices but vague on what will happen to folks in the lobby. On September 3, 2009, a panel discussed their expectations for the next 100 days of the debate.

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, on a September 3, 2009 panel hosted by the Alliance for Health Reform (AHR), said that this is a “crucial time” to be having the health care discussion. She added that “having the equivalent of 24 states” without health care coverage was “unacceptable.” Actually, past Chiefs of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) claim that the high end estimates of the uninsured population are way off.

Lavizzo-Mourey further opined that “if we don’t take action, we’re going to have more uninsured, higher costs and probably higher costs of the government as we need more people to be enrolled in Medicaid.”

For her part, Gail Wilensky, a Senior Fellow at Project HOPE and former chairman of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and former administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration (now Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), described the challenges in reforming Medicare as a “metaphor” for the challenges facing health care in general.

“The Medicare program has a clear sustainability issue,” she said. “It has made promises [that] it is not in a position to fund as of yet…In some ways, it is lagging further behind the rest of health care in terms of moving toward integrated delivery systems and more management of chronic disease.”

Wilensky encouraged the Obama administration to focus on “reducing inappropriate admissions” to the Medicare program in order to save taxpayer money. She further cautioned against a mentality of “want[ing] money now” to fund short term fixes because “what we need to do will take some time.”

Lavizzo-Mourey encouraged more “end of life counseling” for the elderly, because the majority of people “don’t really understand” what kind of care is available for them toward the end of life. When asked about the possibility of the public option resulting in “death panels,” Wilensky dismissed the argument a “red herring” and said that it was “unfortunate” that this has received so much mainstream attention.

Nevertheless, Wilensky is still convinced that a public plan option is “not desirable.”

“I mean you can have a mandate for individuals to have coverage and not have a public plan,” she said. “Again, it’s why if people, rather than talking about the public plan as the Holy Grail, ought to indicate what it is they’re trying to accomplish and, because [the public plan has] become so contentious, see whether or not there aren’t other strategies.”

When former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin denounced such “death panels,” lawmakers hotly denied that there were any, then took out language in their bills that seemed to suggest there were. Even without Obamacare, as Chris Warden pointed out in Accuracy in Academia’s forthcoming textbook, Voodoo Anyone?, Medicare recipients spend one-third less time in the hospital than the general population. Indeed, the current CBO director anticipates Medicare cuts as a result of health care reform.

Brittany Fortier is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.