White House Vows No Rationing in Health Care Reform Package

By Fred Lucas | June 2, 2009 | 6:51 PM EDT

Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office for Management and Budget (AP Photo)

White House (CNSNews.com) – Reforming health care will save money, but it will not lead to rationing of treatment and procedures, the Obama administration’s chief budget official said Tuesday.
“No one here is talking about rationing,” said Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office for Management and Budget. “What we are talking about, look at the source of that 30 percent or so in potential efficiency gains in the health system are from unnecessary procedures, unnecessary days in hospital, unnecessary applications of technology and what have you.”
Critics of the Obama administration’s health care proposal assert it will lead to rationing or denying treatment, as has been the case in Great Britain and Canada universal health care systems. The economic stimulus bill passed earlier this year established a “comparative effectiveness council” that would evaluate what medical procedures are the most cost effective.  
Orszag was speaking along with Christina Romer, chairwoman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) at an event highlighting a White House study that claimed a major overhaul of health care reform is good for the economy.
Obama met with Democratic members of Congress Tuesday at the White House to discuss passing a health care reform package by the end of the year.
To say Obama’s version of health reform saves money is nothing but smoke and mirrors, said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio),
“This 56-page press release lacks any real answers about how the Administration will deliver promised savings and improve Americans’ health care,” Boehner said in a statement. “One thing is clear: We don’t need a government takeover of health care that raises taxes, rations care, and puts government bureaucrats in control of decisions that should be made by families and doctors.”
Also established in the stimulus package was the creation of a centrally linked network that would contain the medical information of every American by 2014. Obama’s health care proposal was to make a federal insurance plan available to Americans that would compete with private insurers.
“We have very dramatic variations in the way health care is delivered in the United States in which the more efficient providers do not generate worse outcomes than the less efficient providers,” Orszag continued. “Cost and quality don’t go in the normal correlation.
“To get directly to your point, we are not talking about eliminating tests and procedures that are helping people. We are talking about not knowing and often doing things that actually don’t help people, paying for and thus facilitating such a system. Apart from the financial aspect, who wants to be exposed to unnecessary days in the hospital and unnecessary procedures?” he said.
The study said that if nothing is done, health care costs will consume one-third of the economy by 2040, and Americans’ take home pay will fall. Meanwhile, government spending on Medicare and Medicaid could increase to 15 percent of the gross domestic product by 2040.
Health care reform, on the other hand would lower deficits and increase savings and investment, the study purported.
“The benefits of health care reform to American families, firms and the budget are enormous,” Romer said.
Baucus said it would behoove the health care industry to participate in shaping the health care agenda, citing parts of the industry that are already making suggestions.
“We will pass it this year,” Baucus said. “The train is leaving the station, and all groups know it, and they know they are either on or off the train.”
Dodd said the focus on the economic argument for health care reform has not been pressed enough in the past.
“Health care costs are rising faster than the economy can grow,” Dodd said. “That’s not only unacceptable, but unsustainable as a country.”