Obama's Health-Care Czar; Tom Daschle Book Lays out Plan

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 26, 2008 | Go to article overview

Obama's Health-Care Czar; Tom Daschle Book Lays out Plan


Byline: Tony Blankley, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

As President-elect Obama's apparent choice for Health and Human Services Secretary and as White House health care czar, it is a fair guess that Tom Daschle's view on health-care legislation may be decisive.

So it is worth reading his book Critical: What we can do about the health-care crisis, in which the gracious former Senate leader lays out without equivocation both the policy he recommends and the tactics for how to pass it. He proposes setting up a board to establish standards for health-care delivery that would be modeled on how the Federal Reserve Board and Securities and Exchange Commission oversee banks and corporations. Technically, it would only oversee the public health systems (Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Administration, etc.) - which provide about 32 percent of health care nationwide.

Mr. Daschle writes: The Federal Health Board wouldn't be a regulatory agency, but its recommendations would have teeth because all federal health programs would have to abide by them. But here is the kicker. Although his board would technically have no say on the 68 percent of health care that is provided through the private sector, Mr. Daschle modestly adds: Congress could opt to go further with the Board's recommendations. It could, for example, link the tax exclusion for health insurance to insurance that complies with the Board's recommendation.

Those last 19 words would spell the end of independent private-sector health care in America. Obviously, no health insurance would be sold if it was denied the tax deduction. Thus, every policy, every standard decided by this board would be the law of the land for every drug company, every hospital, every doctor, every health insurance company.

Indeed, in the section in which he identifies losers under his plan, Mr. Daschle is admirably candid. Among the explicit losers he includes: "Doctors and patients might resent any encroachment on their ability to choose certain treatments, even if they are expensive or ineffectual compared to alternatives. Some insurers might object to new rules that restrict their coverage decisions. And the health care industry would have to reconsider its business plan. That is to say, they can stay in business and deliver their services, but only as the government bureaucrats say they may. They would no longer be genuinely independent.

One of the things that Mr. Daschle says will have to change is the technology arms race he claims hospitals are engaging in to attract aging baby boomers with the latest diagnostic imaging machines. Imagine that, offering customers the latest technology, which as Mr. Daschle admits help doctors estimate the spread of cancer or the extent of cardiac disease without surgery.

Of course, for Mr. Daschle, the problem with such high-tech diagnostics is that it leads to treatment. …

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