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Thursday, December 17, 2009


An amendment likely to be added to the Senate health care restructuring bill by Majority Leader Harry Reid would empower federal bureaucrats to impose requirements on private insurance plans with the explicit intent of limiting Americans’ right to spend their own money, if they choose, to save their own lives.

On Wednesday, Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Joseph Lieberman (I-Ct.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced an amendment (# 3240) to the Senate health care restructuring bill, which it is widely reported Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) will include in the mammoth “Manager’s Amendment” he will introduce just in advance of the key “cloture” votes designed to end debate preparatory to adopting the bill. Amendment 3240, which the sponsors went to the Senate floor Thursday to advocate, expands the powers of the Independent Medicare Advisory Board (the Board) so that it will cover not only Medicare, but also all the private insurance plans in the “exchanges” the bill establishes for people annually to choose their health insurance.

The Board would be directed to make recommendations that the Secretary of Health and Human Services could then impose that, in the sweeping and vague language of the amendment, would in their opinion promote “integrated care, care coordination, prevention and wellness, and quality and efficiency[,] ... decrease health care spending, and [bring about] other appropriate improvements.” In addition to the elements characteristic of managed care plans that would be required, note the explicit directive to “decrease health care spending.” All of the requirements presumably are aimed at forcing the privately insured to spend less on healthcare, and the list of requirements is open-ended. Plans deemed to spend too much money on health care would be evicted from the exchange.

Instead of allowing Americans themselves to balance cost, benefits, and quality when choosing among competing health plans in the exchanges, their choice would be subject to potentially drastic restrictions. Americans’ choice to spend their own money for health insurance they judge will be less likely to deny treatments and otherwise ration care would be limited.

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