Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Rationale For Rationing Begins

In Medicine, the Power of No

It’s easy to come up with arguments for why we need to do so. Above all, we don’t have a choice. Giving hospitals and drug makers a blank check will bankrupt Medicare. Slowing the cost growth, on the other hand, will free up resources for other uses, like education. Lower costs will also lift workers’ take-home pay.

But I suspect that these arguments won’t be persuasive. They have the faint ring of an insurer’s rationale for denying a claim. Compared with an anecdote about a cancer patient looking for hope, the economic arguments are soulless.

The better bet for the new reformers — starting with Donald Berwick, the physician who will run Medicare — is to channel American culture, not fight it. We want the best possible care, no matter what. Yet we often do not get it because the current system tends to deliver more care even when it means worse care.

Any way they slice it, they're still calling for the rationing of health care. The economics of the situation demand it. In an age where using less is a status symbol of how "green" one is, health care rationing might look palatable. But that won't be the case.

Unlike clothes or food or shelter, there is no "basic" health care level. The basic level is to be healthy, regardless of cost. Obamacare will begin the reshaping of the American psyche to accept less health as, somehow, more, even when it obviously is not. This conditioning will teach us to accept longer wait periods to see doctors, fewer treatment options and, ultimately, death from diseases and illnesses that just a few years before would have been considered treatable. Such is the eventual result of socialized medicine.