On May 21, we had an inkling of the future of health care. It isn’t pretty.
On that day, a group called the United States Preventive Services Task Force, a government agency since being created in 1984, announced that men should no longer get screeened with the “Prostate Specific Antigen” (PSA) test, claiming that less than one in 1,000 deaths was prevented by the screening.
Perhaps it was coincidence, or perhaps not, but at the exact same time the American Urological Association was holding its annual convention. The urologists reacted with outrage, claiming that many men would unnecessarily have their lives shortened without regular PSA screening for prostate cancer.Many prostate cancer survivors then came forward to tell their stories that the PSA test saved them.
Fast forward five weeks from there to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that ObamaCare is constitutional.
Since then, of course, conservatives have put up roadmarkers on the road to hell while liberals have done the same for the path to paradise. Unfortunately, it’s the same highway so the signs counterbalance one another, “No left or right turns allowed.” The road leads over a fiscal cliff, but don’t worry, we’ll take care of you on the way down.
They can have their fun, but, using the PSA debate as just one tiny scene, here is how I see the health care drama playing out.
First, like everything else, health care is not static. It is constantly evolving and changing. Sometimes, it is even advancing.
In order to advance, however, it is doubtful that any of the easy moves — like reminding physicians to wash their hands frequently to prevent the spread of infection — remain to be discovered.
If it were easy to find consensus on health care issues today, we would have found them by now.
As it stands, just because the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says the PSA test is a waste of money, a man can still get one if he wants one.
Er, at least today he can.
But the debate has just begun. Now the U.S. government is going to insert itself into the PSA debate and every other discussion over what constitutes “best practices” in health care.
Inevitably, this discussion will eventually include money.
You may not have heard, but the federal government is broke. It is spending money that it doesn’t have faster than a slot machine stuck on permanent jackpot.
Some critics of ObamaCare have suggested that the financial cost projections for the bill may be off by a trillion or so.
How long do you think it will be before the federal bureaucracy decides in its infinite wisdom that ObamaCare will no longer cover a PSA test?
A PSA test has more validity than a plea by a desperate cancer patient who wants access to a new drug made of apricot pits because it saved someone in Mexico.
Take that one little PSA test and multiply it by the thousands of medical procedures available, and that’s what the debate in Washington will be about in the foreseeable future.
And guess what? Even though the Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations are non-binding, ObamaCare includes an Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) which will implement Medicare cost controls starting next year. The 15-member IPAB will be appointed by the president, and under ObamaCare, cannot be disbanded before 2017. In the meantime, in order for Congress to overturn any IPAB ruling, it will take a 60 percent supermajority of the Senate. Good luck with that.
Liberals suffered apoplexy when Sarah Palin said ObamaCare contained provisions for “death panels.” It doesn’t — but it has IPAB which will decide how much money will be spent on each procedure.
It’s inevitable that the panel will decide how health care dollars are spent, that some of those decisions will be wrong for some patients, and some patients will die as a result.
ObamaCare will increase demand for health care, but it did precious little to increase the supply of it, and by implementing mandatory price controls, it will squeeze some suppliers out of the market.
My view is that the new health care system will put every patient on their own.
I’ve been reading “The End of Illness” by Dr. David B. Agus, an oncologist. Agus urges readers to reduce the “inflammation” in their bodies. Inflammation results from any disease from colds to bruises to cancer.
He suggests if you want to live a long life, live like a nun. They live an average 86 years. If you want to live a shortened life, play lots of football. He writes, “Twenty-eight percent of all pro football players born in the last century who qualified as obese died before their 50th birthday.”
He recommends taking statins like Lipitor, even if one doesn’t have high cholesterol, just for the anti-inflammatory benefits.
To me, under the new health care system the goal has to be, with the exception of regular check ups in hopes of early diagnosis, to live as healthily as possible in order to avoid as long as possible what will eventually become a draconian system.
As for the Supreme Court decision, as Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his opinion, “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”
Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Record. He may be reached at (320) 632-2345 or by e-mail at [email protected].