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Monday, November 22, 2010

Obama bureaucrat: Cut out visits to the doctor's office

The Tennessean published my commentary on how the new healthcare law will push the government toward cost-cutting measures that also cut into the patient-physician relationship:
Reform act benefits only bureaucrats

Published on November 21, 2010 in The Tennessean
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said of her party’s mas­sively expen­sive and expan­sive bill to accel­er­ate government’s takeover of Amer­i­can health care, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
Amer­i­cans have found out what’s in the law and pro­nounced it dead on arrival.
A new Ras­mussen Reports tele­phone sur­vey finds 58 per­cent of likely vot­ers favor repeal of the health-care law. Demo­c­ra­tic poll­ster Pat Cad­dell asserts that the health-care fiat trig­gered his party’s loss of at least 60 seats in the House: “It is … health care (that) killed them. The Amer­i­can peo­ple found this a crime against democracy.”
Besides deplor­ing the par­ti­san­ship that pro­duced the titanic takeover, Amer­i­cans are also revolt­ing against the economy-wrecking, job-killing, bureaucrat-empowering, patient-quashing con­tent of the law.
Ten­nessee Gov. Phil Bre­desen, a Demo­c­rat, has warned that the health over­haul cre­ates strong incen­tives for employ­ers to drop cov­er­age, which would dra­mat­i­cally increase the cost for tax­pay­ers. Com­pa­nies strug­gling in the still-wallowing econ­omy aren’t about to hire new work­ers when faced with either pay­ing increased pre­mi­ums or hefty new gov­ern­ment fines.
The new law also gives incred­i­ble dis­cre­tionary power to Wash­ing­ton bureau­cratic ide­o­logues. That change, which shifts decision-making power away from you and toward Wash­ing­ton, threat­ens the very physician-patient rela­tion­ship that forms the bedrock of Amer­i­can health care.
Doc­tor vis­its at risk
Case in point: Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s choice to head our Medicare and Med­ic­aid sys­tem wants to save time and money by cut­ting out your vis­its to your physician.
Cen­ters for Medicare and Med­ic­aid Ser­vices admin­is­tra­tor Don­ald Berwick lauds the Euro­pean social­ist model that saves money by dic­tat­ing which treat­ments and med­i­cine patients can and can­not get. He also wants you to stop vis­it­ing your doc­tor for per­son­al­ized care. Dr. Berwick has con­tended that “access to help and heal­ing … does not always mean — in fact, I think it rarely means — reliance on face-to-face meet­ings between patients, doc­tors, and nurses. The health-care encounter as a face-to-face visit is a dinosaur.”
Some older Ten­nesseans can still remem­ber their physi­cian mak­ing house calls. Younger Ten­nesseans can at least remem­ber when their physi­cian took what­ever time was needed to dis­cuss their ail­ments, face-to-face. Then man­aged care cut down on the time of office vis­its to save money. Now, this bureau­crat wants to elim­i­nate your office vis­its altogether.
The future that awaits patients under the new law is a Scrooge-like admin­is­tra­tion of face­less, government-run, rationed health care. The alter­na­tive is to repeal the new health-care law and pass bipar­ti­san, tar­geted reforms that pre­serve both our econ­omy and the patient-physician relationship.
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If Dr. Berwick gets his way, imagine this email communication to a patient:

"We understand from your text message to our virtual office that you're on the verge of dying from pneumonia. Please complete and submit the attached government-required Request for Electronic Healthcare Consult, Form No. 1040-IMSICK, in .pdf format. Our office manager will scan the bar code and place you in the queue for a brief teleconference, or alternatively, an email of web sites that may help you. This is an automated response--do not reply to this email address. Please be sure to assign someone to promptly cancel this request in the case of your demise while waiting."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Throwing Pro-Life Democrats Under the Bus?

The photo below was taken March 24, 2010. On that day, President Obama signed an executive order that he used to get pro-life Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to stop holding out on voting for his healthcare takeover bill because it funded abortions.
(Photo captions by National Right to Life - click here for larger image)
The executive order supposedly provided political cover for the handful of pro-life Democrat holdout legislators. The order also created the appearance of preventing federal funding of abortions--funding that the public strongly opposed.
In fact, the executive order did neither.
As the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops noted in their legal analysis of the executive order, "the President may not amend or otherwise contradict the legislative mandates expressed by Congress in the form of statutory law." Congress makes laws--not the President.
The recent election showed the gaping holes in the "political cover" that Mr. Obama supposedly provided for his colleagues. Eight of the 14 legislators pictured at the presidential executive order signing are now gone. Seven lost elections and the eighth, Bart Stupak of Michigan, retired after losing credibility over the executive order.

As a result, House Democrats in the new Congress will have lost the core of their already small pro-life contingent. Presumably led again by radically pro-abortion Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, they will now be able to vote more as a bloc on abortion-related matters, without worrying about the aggravating pro-life colleagues who stand in the way of their pro-abortion agenda.
So the question is, is it possible that Mr. Obama and Ms. Pelosi anticipated this eventuality all along? Did they envision the executive order as the perfect way to appear to accommodate the demands of their pro-life colleagues while actually sealing their demise?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Try again to enact true health care reform

USA Today published my commentary on November 10, 2010:

A USA Today editorial ("Don't try to repeal the new health care law--improve it") defends the partisan, massive takeover of U.S. health care by asserting that the "core principle behind health reform" is this: "If you work hard and play by the rules, your life shouldn't be ruined because you happen to get sick" (Our view, Medical reform debate, Monday).
That sounds more like a nursery rhyme than a prescription for sound health policy.
Consider alternatively these core principles for true health reform: providing a safety net for needy patients while staying within our financial means; driving down costs to consumers by increasing competition across state lines and decreasing excessive bureaucracy; and averting the looming crisis of patient access caused by physician and nurse shortages by addressing runaway malpractice litigation and threats to healthcare professionals' conscience rights.
Instead of pursuing these reasonable course corrections in a climate of cooperation, partisans in Congress and the White House ramrodded through an intensely divisive and hugely expensive government takeover of health care during an economic crisis. It may take more than two years to right that sinking ship, but it's worth doing so, to protect patients and our economy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Vote for the unborn a matter of principle, not party

Pursuing the premise that pro-life groups are somehow determined to rid the Democrat party of pro-life legislators, a Christianity Today article, "The Death of Pro-Life Democrats" glosses over the abortion-funding healthcare bill vote that triggered the alienation of some Democrats from the pro-life movement. The article notes simply that "President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting abortion funding."
Pro-life leaders point to past court decisions that demonstrate how the courts' view of the statutory mandate would override any executive order. The executive order also can be changed tomorrow by this pro-abortion President or any successor with the stroke of a pen. The healthcare bill, meanwhile, becomes permanent law.
Legislators don't vote on executive orders; they vote on bills. The pro-life leaders I work with welcome solidly pro-life legislators regardless of party. We just want dependable pro-life legislators whose vote for the unborn will be a matter of principle, not party.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Capitol Hill Inside Scoop: Pro-Life Election Results Rundown

I attended a private meeting yesterday of U.S. House of Representatives staff and pro-life leaders to discuss the results of the election from a pro-life perspective. Here's a quick summary of what happened on Tuesday:
  • 52 Pro-life Improvements in U.S. House of Representatives:
    • 38 pro-life Members-elect replacing Members who voted consistently or mostly pro-abortion
    • 14 pro-life Members-elect replacing Members with a mixed pro-life voting record
  • 32 No Pro-life Change:
    • 25 pro-life Members-elect replacing outgoing Members who had a consistent pro-life voting record
    • 7 pro-abortion Members-elect replacing pro-abortion Members
  • 3 full or partial pro-life losses:
    • 1 pro-life Member who will be replaced by a pro-abortion Member-elect
    • 2 sometimes pro-life Members replaced by pro-abortion Members-elect
Pro-Life Improvements - Listing
Incoming Member is expected to vote consistently pro-life; predecessor voted consistently or mostly pro-abortion:
1. AR-02 Griffin, Tim (replacing Snyder)
2. AZ-01 Gosar, Paul (replacing Kirkpatrick)
3. AZ-05 Schweikert, Dave (replacing Mitchell)
4. CO-03 Tipton, Scott (replacing Salazar)
5. CO-04 Gardner, Cory (replacing Markey)
6. FL-02 Southerland, Steve (replacing Boyd)
7. FL-08 Webster, Daniel (replacing Grayson)
8. FL-22 West, Allen (replacing Klein)
9. FL-24 Adams, Sandy (replacing Kosmas)
10. ID-01 Labrador, Raul (replacing Minnick)
11. IL-11 Kinzinger, Adam (replacing Halvorson)
12. IL-14 Hultgren, Randy (replacing Foster)
13. IL-17 Schilling, Bob (replacing Hare)
14. KS-03 Yoder, Kevin (replacing Moore)
15. MD-01 Harris, Andy (replacing Kratovil)
16. MI-07 Walberg, Tim (replacing Schauer)
17. NC-02 Ellmers, Renee (replacing Etheridge)
18. ND-AL Berg, Rick (replacing Pomeroy)
19. NH-01 Guinta, Frank (replacing Shea-Porter)
20. NM-02 Pearce, Steve (replacing Teague)
21. NV-03 Heck, Joe (replacing Titus)
22. NY-13 Grimm, Michael (replacing McMahon)
23. NY-29 Reed, Tom (replacing Massa)
24. OH-18 Gibbs, Bob (replacing Space)
25. PA-07 Meehan, Pat (replacing Sestak)
26. PA-08 Fitzpatrick, Mike (replacing Murphy)
27. SC-05 Mulvaney, Mick (replacing Spratt)
28. SD-AL Noem, Kristi (replacing Herseth Sandlin)
29. TN-06 Black, Diane (replacing Gordon)
30. TN-08 Fincher, Stephen (replacing Tanner)
31. TX-17 Flores, Bill (replacing Edwards)
32. TX-23 Canseco, Quico (replacing Rodriguez)
33. VA-02 Rigell, Scott (replacing Nye)
34. VA-05 Hurt, Robert (replacing Perriello)
35. VA-09 Griffith, Morgan (replacing Boucher)
36. WA-03 Herrera, Jaime (replacing Baird)
37. WI-07 Duffy, Sean (replacing Obey)
38. WI-08 Ribble, Reid (replacing Kagen)

Incoming Member is expected to vote consistently pro-life; predecessor had a mixed voting record
1. AR-01 Crawford, Rick (replacing Berry)
2. IN-08 Buchshon, Larry (replacing Ellsworth)
3. IN-09 Young, Todd (replacing Hill)
4. LA-03 Landry, Jeff (replacing Melancon)
5. MI-01 Benishek, Dan (replacing Stupak)
6. MN-08 Cravaack, Chip (replacing Oberstar)
7. MO-04 Hartzler, Vicky (replacing Skelton)
8. OH-01 Chabot, Steve (replacing Driehaus)
9. OH-06 Johnson, Bill (replacing Wilson)
10. OH-16 Renacci, Jim (replacing Boccieri)
11. PA-03 Kelly, Mike (replacing Dahlkemper)
12. PA-10 Marino, Thomas (replacing Carney)
13. PA-11 Barletta, Lou (replacing Kanjorski)
14. WV-01 McKinley, David (replacing Mollohan)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Warping jurisprudence wrongly exorcises our religious values from our government

When a U.S. senate candidate recently challenged her opponent during a debate to clarify whether he meant that the theory of "separation of church and state" was actually in the Constitution, many in the audience at Widener University Law School howled in derision. Why did the legal audience not laugh when the other candidate in response omitted the religious free exercise portion of the First Amendment?
The law faculty and their protégés laughed selectively because they are steeped not so much in the actual text and original intent of the Constitution but in decades of ideological, warping jurisprudence that wrongly exorcises our religious values from our government. Taking Thomas Jefferson's "separation of church and state" phrase from a personal letter out of context has served to thwart not only the persuasions of Jefferson, who attended church services at the Capitol two days after coining the phrase, but also of virtually all of the Constitution's framers and the American citizenry who through their state legislatures ratified the document. Seeking to protect the Church from government dominance and to protect the consciences of individuals from state coercion, Americans at our founding forbade Congress to make any "law respecting an establishment of religion" and enshrined the "free exercise" of religion as a vital force in democracy.
Substituting judicial ideology for the Constitution while omitting the full protections of the First Amendment is a fast track to expunging religious views from the body politic and to a less tolerant, less inclusive and less just society.

The naked public square, religious freedom and conscience rights

While historically insightful, a recent Washington Post op-ed by Michael Gerson misses the mark on the contemporary application of a controversial challenge regarding Thomas Jefferson's non-Constitutional phrase, "separation of church and state".
Although Jefferson put his own phrase in context by attending church services in the House of Representatives, creative courts have manipulated his words to undermine the framers' establishment clause intent. Decades of judicial gerrymandering have increasingly cordoned off religious people and their values to the confines of churches, synagogues and mosques, resulting in what Richard John Neuhaus aptly labeled the "naked public square".
Even Mr. Gerson limits the policy-making influence of "teachings of faith" to "respecting the priority of conscience." Yet conscience is precisely what is not respected in our country today. Healthcare professionals are being fired, intimidated, demoted and blackballed from medicine simply for following their consciences and adhering to life-affirming ethical standards rather than participating in abortion. Now President Obama plans to rescind the only federal regulation protecting conscience in healthcare.
Unlike Jefferson, our government increasingly respects neither conscience nor the Constitution. As a result, our body politic is being robbed of the creative and power-challenging vitality of faith and the redemptive, faith-based morality of a large segment of the citizenry.