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Ready for rationing?

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By John Shadegg

Are you ready for health care rationing? Are you ready to be told what treatments, medicines, and procedures you can or cannot have? Because rationing may be coming soon to your doctor's office or a hospital near you.

Last week, Obama economic advisor, Larry Summers, expressed Democrats' desire for “changing the way in which we deliver health care in this country…[W]hether it's tonsillectomies or hysterectomies…by doing the right kind of cost-effectiveness…some experts estimate that we could take as much as $700 billion a year out of our health care system.”

Do you really trust the same government that can't oversee AIG, run a hurricane recovery effort, or balance its budget to decide which drugs, procedures, or operations are cost-effective for the American people?

In the stimulus bill, Democrats already passed $1.1 billion in so-called “comparative effectiveness research.” While this language sounds innocuous, it is actually quite dangerous. Here's how David Obey, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, explained it in the committee's own report: “those items, procedures, and interventions… that are found to be less effective and in some cases, more expensive, will no longer be prescribed” [emphasis added].

President Obama even hinted at this ominous future in a recent interview with the New York Times, noting that, “the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here…there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place.” In other words, he is saying you and your doctor will no longer make the call, government will.

This is already happening in the United Kingdom, where the national health care board recently confirmed a ban on three of four life-prolonging drugs for its kidney cancer patients. Now, roughly half of those diagnosed with this cancer will not be eligible for the medical care they need.

Is it any wonder that Americans are 14% more likely to survive breast cancer, 35% more likely to survive colon cancer, and almost twice as likely to survive prostate cancer than their British counterparts?

If Washington follows Tom Daschle's suggestion to create a federal health care planning board that “exert[s] tremendous influence on every . . . provider and payer,” we could face the same denial of treatment—and it will be us and our loved ones who will lose our health care freedom.

Are you ready for government health care? Are you ready for rationing?

John Shadegg is a Republican member of the House of Representatives, representing Arizona's Third District.

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