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MSNBC: Maddow Says Republicans Want Americans to Believe Healthcare Reform Is "Secretly a Plan to Kill Old People"

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Posted on July 30 2009 7:30 am
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On her MSNBC program Tuesday, Rachel Maddow lampooned Republican objections to government-run healthcare proposals, misrepresenting those objections to a degree so great that they were rendered unrecognizable. Sporting the customary, condescending sneer she routinely dons in order to express just how daffy she thinks conservatives are, Maddow, with an air of incredulity, explained that Congressional Republicans are portraying the Democrat plan for healthcare reform as being “secretly a plan to kill old people.”

This “whole new crazy conspiracy theory,” Maddow elaborated, was “hatched” among the “conservative base” and in the “conservative media,” most notably “conservative talk radio.” To buttress her point, she aired a film clip of Rush Limbaugh stating that under socialized medicine, “people of a certain age, with certain diseases, will be deemed not worth the investment.” Eventually Maddow summed up the Republican position thusly:

“Health care reform doesn’t have anything to with the fact that our health care system stinks. It’s secretly a way to trick people into killing themselves.”

Beneath the mounds of ideological mud that Maddow heaped upon the Republican objections, there is indeed a bedrock of truth to them. As the Heritage Foundation explains, a socialized-medicine model would involve the creation of a Federal Health Board to “make key health care decisions, such as determining the cost-effectiveness of treatments and choosing which services public insurance programs would cover.”

To decide which medical procedures should (and should not) be covered under the government plan, this Federal Health Board would calculate the number of “Quality Adjusted Life Years” that those procedures could be expected to gain for patients. Older patients would necessarily be at a disadvantage, because their gains in this regard would usually be less than the gains that a younger person could be projected to make. Given that a universal feature of “universal health care” is the rationing of services, the Board tasked with overseeing that rationing would necessarily favor younger people.

“Great Britain,” the Heritage Foundation explains, “has a similar institution, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (known by its acronym, ‘NICE’). Britain’s experience with NICE offers insight into how such an institution operates in practice.”

In her 2008 book The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care, Sally Pipes writes:

In 2008, NICE made a … decision about the lung cancer drug Tarceva. Despite numerous studies showing that the drug significantly prolongs the life of cancer patients—and the unanimous endorsement of lung cancer specialists throughout the U.K.—NICE determined that the drug was too expensive to cover.…

In 2002, Americans with a rare stomach cancer started taking Gleevec [a molecularly-targeted medicine] because it was found to target and kill cancer cells without attacking healthy cells. It took almost a full two years after U.S. approval for Britain’s clinical drug review agency to approve Gleevec’s use for those with the cancer. Britain’s behavior is typical—every European government rations drugs to save money.…

Swedish policy expert Johnny Munkhammar cuts right to the truth:

“European governments haven’t figured out a way to deliver health care for less money—they’ve simply figured out a way to ration care.”

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