In the summer of 2009, at the peak of the legislative debate over ObamaCare, a video clip we produced at my old blog went viral of former Labor Secretary Robert Reich speaking at UC Berkeley. Reich was giving a made-up campaign speech demonstrating what a candidate for president would say if they were being fully honest with the American people. It’s an oldie but a goodie, especially in light of recent events. Watch:
Reich would subsequently claim his comments were taken ‘out of context’ (don’t they always), but the campaign ‘truths’ he revealed are looking more and more accurate. Take Reich’s first assertion, that re-organizing the health care system to improve care for everyone would require the young and healthy to pay more. This reality of course is at the very center of the Supreme Court debate over the individual mandate, with several of the Justices, including Elena Kagan, noting that the mandate will force young people who would otherwise elect to not buy insurance to subsidize the healthcare costs of others. The fate of the mandate is yet to be decided – but Reich was right.
Reich’s next statement was that healthcare reform would require the rationing of drugs and advanced medical technologies for the elderly in the last years of their lives in order to cut costs. Leading to his now infamous conclusion that ‘we’re going to let you die’. Just this week reports came out of an initiative from the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation (ABIM) recommending that doctors reduce or eliminate their use of 45 common medical treatments the Board deemed ‘unnecessary’. Frivolous things such as stress testing for cardiac disease, the use of imaging in cancer diagnosis, and even the prescription of antibiotics in some cases. And it’s surely a coincidence that the Chairman of the Board of the ABIM is also the Chair of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, the board charged with making annual recommendations to Congress for reducing Medicare costs. Reich seems to have been on the right track about this too, although fortunately I don’t think they are ready to let us die just yet. That will come down the road if Obama’s new Independent Payment Advisory Board retains the power granted to it by ObamaCare.
The jury is still out on his last point about healthcare reform ultimately resulting in reduced innovation, and fewer advancements in medical technology. But given his accuracy in predicting the first two points, does anyone want to bet against this? This is just common sense, after all, that a reduction in spending and rationing of medical treatments by the government will result in less risk-taking and investment by the private sector. And of course ObamaCare taxes medical device and drug companies directly, reducing the funds available for R&D as well as the incentive for venture capitalists to fund start-ups in these industries.
Robert Reich obviously knew what he was talking about. I wonder what other uncomfortable truths about liberal policy he hasn’t shared with us? And it’s too bad the President we have wasn’t as honest as Reich was about the ultimate outcome of his healthcare legislation.