September 27, 2009

Best Death Panel tip this week...

Progressives! This is hot! Naturally you would prefer to just decide who lives and who dies, but this is the next best thing...

EDITORIAL: Death panels by proxy - Washington Times:

Yes, there are death panels. Its members won't even know whose deaths they are causing. But under the health care bill sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, death panels will indeed exist - oh so cleverly disguised as accountants.

The offending provision is on Pages 80-81 of the unamended Baucus bill, hidden amid a lot of similar legislative mumbo-jumbo about Medicare payments to doctors. The key sentence: "Beginning in 2015, payment would be reduced by five percent if an aggregation of the physician's resource use is at or above the 90th percentile of national utilization." Translated into plain English, it means that in any year in which a particular doctor's average per-patient Medicare costs are in the top 10 percent in the nation, the feds will cut the doctor's payments by 5 percent.

Forget results. This provision makes no account for the results of care, its quality or even its efficiency. It just says that if a doctor authorizes expensive care, no matter how successfully, the government will punish him by scrimping on what already is a low reimbursement rate for treating Medicare patients. The incentive, therefore, is for the doctor always to provide less care for his patients for fear of having his payments docked. And because no doctor will know who falls in the top 10 percent until year's end, or what total average costs will break the 10 percent threshold, the pressure will be intense to withhold care, and withhold care again, and then withhold it some more. Or at least to prescribe cheaper care, no matter how much less effective, in order to avoid the penalties....

The neat thing about this is that the top 10% get slammed, and then they will cut back on care. But that means there will be a new top 10% the next year, to be punished for the crime of caring too much for people who aren't worth saving. It will be an endless ratchet!

AND, when granny dies for lack of this-or-that, you blame the greedy doctors!

Posted by John Weidner at September 27, 2009 2:58 PM
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