Published March 22, 2011
The one-year anniversary of the passage of ObamaCare arrives Wednesday and as I reflect on the battle that gave us this bill and everything that’s happened since, I am reminded of the game liar's poker. Liar's poker is a game of chance made famous by Michael Lewis’ book of the same name, where players use any tactic to convince their opponent they have a stronger hand than they really have.
So why am I reminded of liar's poker? President Obama came to office promising to better our health care system and fiscal discipline but instead has played “liar’s poker” with the American people. Desperate to substantiate claims that his trillion-dollar health care entitlement plan would somehow save taxpayers money, the White House fudged the numbers.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius’ recent admission that the administration “double counted” Medicare savings in order to pass health care reform was just one example of the duplicity that was conducted to ensure the bill became law.
This is upsetting and insulting particularly to America’s seniors. As a senior citizen myself, I can tell you that life changes with aging. Even those of us in the best of shape begin to ache in odd places and find that we can’t do everything we could a few years ago. Health and health care are no longer abstract concepts. They are parts of our daily lives. For many, access to health care is a question of downright survival.
That’s what makes this game of liar’s poker so frustratingly frightening for millions of seniors. To politicians and policy wonks, health care is an ideological issue. And the president’s health care scheme is a grand experiment. But seniors understand the real world impact this experiment will have if the ObamaCare numbers don’t work —and it is now painfully clear that they never will. Inevitably, care and treatment will be rationed because denying access to care and treatment is really the only way government can “reduce its costs.” It’s that simple.
This is not the stuff of B-grade horror movies. These types of decisions about care and treatment are made everyday in countries with a government-run health care system. And experience has repeatedly demonstrated that when care is rationed, the elderly and the sick are hardest hit.
To those who say that this could never happen in America, I would point out that it already is.
In the fall of 2010, a senior breast cancer patient in South Carolina told me about the impact that a devastating decision by the Food and Drug Administration will have on her life. Avastin is an expensive life-extending drug that she depends on, literally to keep her alive. In order to “bend the cost curve,” as the president has demanded, the FDA wants to allow Medicare and insurance companies to deny coverage for the drug in order to save money. Medicare would save millions of dollars if it doesn’t have to cover the cost of Avastin but it would be a death sentence for this woman in South Carolina and thousands of breast cancer patients like her. This is the sad reality of government-run health care and the Avastin decision appears to be only the opening crack in the rationing door.
The sick are being targeted as well. The president of the AIDS Health Foundation blasted President Obama's 2012 budget proposal for "rationing" lifesaving drugs, even though the community he serves has historically been among the President's most ardent supporters.
If one of the president's most loyal constituencies is up in arms over rationing, you can bet we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg, and just a taste of how rationing will become the norm as it is in countries with socialist health care systems.
So while some may be wishing ObamaCare a happy first anniversary, those who are paying attention are wishing it good riddance. Unless common sense returns to our nation’s capitol, ObamaCare is repealed and overall spending is brought under control, seniors will inevitably find their drugs and care are rationed. And that makes the current health care and budget fights more critical than ever – not only for breast cancer and AIDS patients who have become the Guinea pigs in an experiment to “reduce the cost of health care” – but for future generations of Americans who will be buried in an avalanche of debt.
Jim Martin, 75, is Chairman of 60 Plus Association and worked on Capitol Hill in 1965 when Medicare passed. 60 Plus is in its 19th year and relies on more than seven million seniors for support.