If Democrats impose such a commission nationwide, it would constitute a radical change in U.S. health care. The reason that physician discretion—not Washington’s cost-minded judgments—is at the core of medicine is that usually there are no “right” answers. The data from large clinical trials produce generic conclusions that rarely apply to individual patients, who have vastly different biologies, response rates to treatments, and often multiple conditions. A breakthrough drug like Herceptin, which is designed for a certain genetic subset of breast-cancer patients, might well be ruled out under such a standardized approach.
It’s possible this global budget could become an accounting fiction, like the automatic Medicare cuts Congress currently pretends it will impose on doctors. But health care’s fiscal pressures will be even stronger than they are today if ObamaCare passes in anything like its current form. And that is when politicians will want this remote, impersonal and unaccountable central committee to do the inevitable dirty work of denying care.