SUMMARY: Points out portions of the Clinton health care package which could result in rationing treatments in certain life-and-death situations. Illustrates this with a very moving letter from a California couple who struggled with a life-and-death decision relating to the premature birth of their daughter. Outlines the five basic principles of the FRC health and ethics policy department are outlined.
June 7, 1994
Indeed, the safest road to hell is the gradual one -- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. - C.S. Lewis The Screwtape LettersDear Friend:
As I write to you this month America is locked in the midst of a heated debate over health care. Almost every day some government expert presents new cost estimates and tax projections. Politicians shout and pound the table trying to sell their point of view. Claims and counterclaims are made. No wonder so many Americans "tune out." Truth and wisdom have become harder and harder to discern. But we must try.
Much more is at stake in the national debate over this issue than simply the future of one seventh of the American economy -- though that is certainly stakes enough. "When you have your health," the cliche goes, "you have everything." The same can be said about control of health care -- if government has that, it has everything.
My words may sound overly dramatic. But I believe that the decisions made by the bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, D.C. this year will largely determine whether this country heads down the dangerous road of big-government socialism that has failed repeatedly around the world. The decisions that are made will certainly impact us all. They will determine how or if more of our hard-earned money will be sent as new taxes to Washington. They will also determine who makes the most intimate decisions about health care for us and our families. Ultimately, they may even determine who lives and who dies.
A letter I recently received from friends of FRC in California made me ponder the slippery slope on which we stand. After reading their touching story, I spoke with Hugh and Kaye Martin and they generously gave me permission to share this account of the birth of their daughter Olivia. Their letter is a reminder of God's wonderful grace, but it's also a warning about a new danger we face.
My wife Kaye's water broke while we were spending Christmas in Yosemite. She was rushed to a hospital in California's Central Valley, 200 miles from our Sonoma home. Kaye had already lost two babies at birth and six from miscarriages, so I was pretty sure this one was a goner. Since the baby was only five months along, the doctors first encouraged us to abort. Then, despite the fact that the baby was breech, they recommended a vaginal delivery -- knowing that the baby most likely would not survive anything but a Caesarean. We could see the baby's heartbeat on the monitor; so we decided to go for the Caesarean. When little Olivia first emerged, she was no larger than my hand and weighed no more than a pint of milk. Her spread fingers were no wider than my thumbnail. Her own finger-nails were the size of grains of sand. Her eyelids were still fused shut. Yet Olivia was clearly a living baby, not a fetus. She stretched and kicked fiercely. Her translucent skin was blood-red. Every feature was perfectly formed. Although barely a pound, Olivia was indeed "fearfully and wonderfully made." For three months, Kaye sat at Olivia 's side by the incubator -- cooing to her, caressing her; giving her that "will to live" which is at least as important as all the marvels of modern technology. Kaye brought Olivia home in late March, five weeks earlier than her original due date. In just three months Olivia has now increased her weight five-fold. She has no apparent abnormalities. She breathes without canned oxygen and sucks voraciously on her doll-sized bottle -- without force-feeding, regimented schedules, or blinking alarms. Last Sunday, at a little church we visited up the North Coast, I sobbed deeply and wrenchingly during worship. We were finally, I realized, home free.
Home free, the Martins realized, for their miracle baby, but perhaps other babies with similar medical problems in the future might not be as fortunate:
Under Bill Clinton's health care plan, babies like Olivia would be denied life support. If the child doesn't fit the guidelines, the "preemie" doctor would be prohibited from intervening to save her. Too premature, too uncertain, too costly -- all part of health rationing, you know. Our country is in deep trouble when we let the government decide who lives and who dies.(1)
Carol and I shed tears when we first read the Martins' moving story. I wish I could tell the Martins, and others like them, that their fears are unfounded. But the facts about the Clinton health plan indicate otherwise. The irony is, this ill-conceived plan is being sold to the American people on its compassion, on what it would supposedly do for those who cannot afford insurance, who fear losing medical coverage if they lose their jobs, or who have been denied health care because of some pre-existing condition.
Let me be perfectly clear: there are real problems with our current health care system. It does a better job of delivering health care to most Americans than it does of making insurance coverage available to everyone. Unfortunately, too many Americans have been priced out of the health insurance market or have been wiped out by catastrophic illnesses. At FRC we have been pushing for reforms to deal with these problems. The President and Mrs. Clinton truly deserve credit for forcing this issue to a necessary public debate. Their proposed solution, however, moves us further away from the goal of compassionate and affordable health care, and closer towards a massive, unfeeling bureaucracy that first discriminates against, then ultimately discards some of our most vulnerable citizens. Year after year this has been Washington's way. Time and again big-government advocates appeal to our hearts and then give us "solutions" that make matters worse. It's happened with welfare. Now we face the same danger with health care.
If adopted, the Clinton plan, with its system of premium caps and utilization reviews, might squeeze some waste out of health care, but over time -- and sooner than we think -- it will lead to the imposition of health care rationing. Under fully implemented ClintonCare, babies like Olivia could be the first to lose protection since the average cost of caring for a severely underweight newborn is $158,000.(2) Already, under a Medicaid experiment in Oregon approved by President Clinton, coverage is excluded for high-tech care of extremely premature babies born to the state's poorest mothers.
John Ludden, medical director of the Harvard Community Health Plan, a major health maintenance organization, says that "price controls on premiums will drive us straight to rationing at bedside."(3) I don't believe this is what our families want in the way of bedside manner from our doctors. Certainly not for premature infants. Not for the elderly. Not for ourselves either, as 77 million baby boomers, including me, approach our twilight years.
The bottom line is this: today's opportunity for meaningful health care reform is too good to waste. Another huge government bureaucracy -- especially one that has difficulty even defining such key terms as human life, family, and medicine -- is not what this nation needs to strengthen a health care industry that is already the world's best.
In short, I'm confident we can do better. That is why the Family Research Council established its health and ethics policy department in 1993. As a result of this initiative, we have been able to provide lawmakers with guidelines and principles we believe should undergird sound health care reform. These principles include:
* Genuine Compassion. Contrary to the administration's spokesmen and some pundits, we do not face a choice between rationing by price and rationing by patient condition. A good health care system must be able to handle the tough cases. Health care "that can never be taken away" is useless if it denies medical services when you need them most, or drains funds needed for the research and development of new life-saving drugs and high-tech treatments. There is no compassion in a health care plan that deprives doctors of their ability to meet the highest ethical standards, that forces their involvement in abortion or other practices offensive to their conscience, or that prevents them from ordering tests they deem necessary. * Rewarding Prudence. If we really care about health, we will not destroy, as ClintonCare would, incentives for individuals and families to practice healthy lifestyles and to reap the rewards of their good behavior. The Clinton plan's system of health alliances, which basically would establish socialized medicine for everyone but employees of government and the nation's largest companies, relies on what is called "community rating." Young and old, reckless and responsible -- all would pay the same premium. That philosophy is wrong in principle, and it can only lead to more disease and personal irresponsibility in practice. * Protecting Family Autonomy. Under ClintonCare, families would be forced into large insurance pools that ignore their individual needs. Many would be required to buy insurance they do not want or may object to on moral grounds. Participants would be compelled to pay for programs like sex education and school-based health clinics that would undermine parental authority and overturn traditional values. Parents will be prevented from seeing their children's most sensitive medical records, but the federal government will have a database that contains the complete medical history of every family. * Empowering Families to Act. Today, if a parent loses a job or wants to change jobs, the family may face the temporary loss of insurance. That is because the current system ties tax benefits to employment, not to individuals. ClintonCare leaves this flawed system in place. Genuinely compassionate health care reform would shift tax benefits directly to families and individuals, allowing them the maximum opportunity to purchase a suitable health plan. * Strong Families and Good Health. The Clinton health reforms directly harm families by financially strapping the small businesses that create 80 percent of the nation's new jobs. If implemented, this plan will destroy jobs, damage family income, and fuel the federal deficit.
FRC is working with members of both parties who are genuinely interested in reform based on these principles. If you want to help us improve the American health care system while preserving family freedom, share your copy of this letter with friends. Also, complete the enclosed reply card and we'll rush you a packet of information on the key issues in health care reform.
Your gift to the Family Research Council this month will help us with postage and other costs involved in producing and distributing this material. As always, we appreciate your partnership with us in tackling the tough issues facing America's families. Above all, we encourage you to learn all you can about these proposals which will affect your family and mine.
God bless you once again for your friendship and financial support of FRC. Thank you, too, for standing tall in the defense of families.
Sincerely, Gary L. Bauer President 1. Letter from Hugh and Kaye Martin, Sonoma, California, to the Family Research Council, April 18, 1994. 2. Elizabeth McCaughey, "No Exit," The New Republic, February 7, 1994, p. 21. 3. Ibid., p. 22.
FRC Monthly Support Newsletter provided by courtest of Mark Conty.
Document prepared by permission, NJB Team
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