A Spoonful Of Sugar Isn’t Enough

Mary Poppins’ A Spoonful of Sugar” was such a hit with my kids when they were little because it was fun to clean up toys while singing it. The line “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” makes a lot of sense when children are busy with an “I don’t wanna do this” task.

But when it comes to Obamacare, I’m afraid a 10-pound bag full of sugar isn’t really going to matter. As Launcelot said in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, “Truth will out!” It always does. And in this case, despite the denials and personal attacks on upstanding Americans such as Sarah Palin, the truth is getting out, and then some.

Obamacare’s Trojan horse, known in some circles, as the “death panel” provision, is Obama’s Achilles’ heel. Even though those pesky “death panel” discussions have taken a turn, not all of us are convinced. Some Americans actually think that just because the Senate has announced that the panels are coming out of its version of Obamacare, we should all heave a sigh of relief and go on about our business. After all, folks, they would argue, don’t we all know how sincerely these men and women in the U.S. Congress care about the views of average Americans like you and me and how they are always looking out for us? Well …

For those of us who live in the real world, the news out of Washington that those panels are allegedly gone is nothing to get excited about. What the Senate took out is a reference to “advance care planning consultations.” The Senate has not removed references to the Independent Medicare Advisory Commission, nor has it finalized any piece of legislation. As we have learned over the years, what was there yesterday and appears to be gone today could come back in a different form tomorrow. It’s sort of like a chameleon; the lizard changes color to adapt to its surroundings.

But there’s a little more to this story than a Sarah Palin versus Barack Obama debate. As Palin wrote on her Facebook page, 

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Sowell, to whom Palin refers, is a wise man who opined, 

 An old advertising slogan said, "Progress is our most important product." With politicians, confusion is their most important product. They confuse bringing down the price of medical care with bringing down the cost. And they confuse medical care with health care.

Nothing is easier than for governments to impose price controls. They have been doing this, off and on, for thousands of years – repeatedly resulting in (1) shortages, (2) quality deterioration and (3) black markets. Why would anyone want any of those things when it comes to medical care?

And this is precisely where Palin is going with her reference to “death panels” and the vulnerable. She had and still has every reason to bring this subject to the public’s attention. For those who doubt the veracity of it, just feast your doubting eyeballs on this little tidbit, which is reported on the Compassion & Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society) web site:  

Compassion & Choices has worked tirelessly with supportive members of congress [sic] to include in proposed reform legislation a provision requiring Medicare to cover patient consultation with their doctors about end-of-life choice. (emphasis added)

 It is clear that Compassion & Choices would approve “death panels,” as well as physician-assisted suicide or any other measure that would cut costs. Why not? Its business is helping people die.
So, was it a coincidence that the day after the Family Research Council pointed this out in a Washington Update segment appropriately entitled “Political Suicide?” the Senate Finance Committee removed the “death panel” provision? Or was it a ploy? While we are grateful to Tony Perkins and his wonderful staff at FRC, we are not convinced that the Senate, or for that matter, the White House, is sincere in any promise they make to the American public on the delicate subject of health care – whether the question at hand is abortion, euthanasia or anything else having to do with respect for the dignity of the human person.

But don’t take my word for it. Just yesterday, the Washington Times published an article written by attorney Robert W. Painter, who handles medical malpractice matters and testified before the Texas legislature on that state’s Advance Directives Act of 1999. In “’Death Panels’ exist already,” Painter writes about what has occurred as a direct result of the Act becoming law. And he warns that what has happened in Texas is a harbinger of what could happen nationwide if the Obama proposal moves forward. The results in Texas have been devastating for families.

The end-of-life provisions of the Obama health care plan would upset the balance of power in health care decision-making in favor of doctors and hospitals and against individuals and families. The federal legislation provides an economic incentive for doctors and hospital administrators to use Medicare funds to start hastening certain patient deaths a bit sooner under existing state laws. In Texas, that balance already is tipped in favor of the health care providers, and the proposed federal legislation would only make matters worse by placing more Medicare dollars on that side of the scale.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, is rightly concerned that the end-of-life provisions in the proposed federal law could be "misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly." Federal lawmakers interested in protecting individual and patient rights need to study carefully the end-of-life provisions with the understanding that the law will be implemented in health care settings governed under 50 different sets of state law.

Admittedly, the warning of "death panels" is a shocking claim. But when I inform people of the effect of the Texas law and how it has trampled on individual rights, they are understandably shocked. If the Texas Advance Directives Act has shown us anything, it is that governments should leave end-of-life decisions to patients and their families.

It occurs to me that President Obama’s rush to impose his prescription for health care reform on the nation is riddled through and through with problems. But at the core of it all, the real question is why should the federal government be regulating medical practices as a way of cutting costs? 

If the entire purpose of health care reform is to save money, we’d better be more than vigilant. A spoon full of sugar is one thing, but Conium maculatum (poison hemlock) is quite another.