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August 14, 2009

by Wesley J. Smith

side bar side bar side bar side bar side bar Americans are engaged in a healthy democratic donnybrook over "Obamacare," the generic term for health care reform legislation that would remake the current American medical system. What a spectacle—citizens yelling at their elective representatives; the Speaker of the House of Representatives testily calling democratic organizing and agitation "un American," the President of the United States forced by political pressures to take to the road to sell the plan.

In all the hue and cry, it is not easy to discern fact from fiction, truth from propaganda. This job is made particularly difficult by the length of the legislation—the House bill alone exceeds 1100 pages—and the difficulty of zeroing in on terms that have yet to be finalized. Still, the general outlines are becoming increasingly clear. So, here is a quick primer on what Obamacare would—and would not—mean for the American people.

  1. Would the law allow me to keep my current insurance policy? Yes, but there is a reason proponents always emphasize the word "current." If you change policies after the law becomes effective, your choices—whether public or private—would be limited to plans approved by the federal government.

  2. What about health care rationing? That's a reasonable fear. The plan calls for a centralized board or boards to establish uniform practice guidelines so as to control medical costs. Critics worry that these boards would impose a system of rationing (hence, Sarah Palin's fear about "death panels"), as occurs under a similar system in the United Kingdom. Adding to the worry, some of Obama's closest health care advisers have explicitly advocated the imposition of age and "quality of life"-based health care cost controls.

  3. Would Medicare be affected? Definitely. The more than $1 trillion federal price tag would be partially paid for through a proposed $500 billion cut in Medicare payments to physicians and other health care providers.

  4. What about waiting lines for tests and procedures? The president assures us that there won't be any, but that seems an empty promise. When more than 40 million additional people obtain health insurance without materially increasing the number of physicians, nurses, and health care facilities, bottlenecks are sure to form—evidenced by the long waits for tests and some procedures in countries with universal coverage like Canada, the UK.

  5. Will the elderly be forced to undergo end of life counseling? Not according to the president and the bill's authors. They claim that the controversial section merely allows physicians and nurses to be paid for such counseling. However, since the point of the counseling would be to cut costs, critics worry that in actual practice, seniors would be pushed toward refusing care—as studies have shown pre natal genetic counseling after a diagnosis of Down syndrome is often directed toward abortion. Even though the controversy roiled the public square for weeks, supporters have not amended the legislation to explicitly ensure that counseling remains fully voluntary for both provider and patient.

There is one more important concern rarely mentioned in the debate about this complicated and mind-numbingly arcane bill. The legislation is only the general outline, the skeleton if you will—of what the remade American health care system would ultimately look like if the bill becomes law. The flesh and blood would be created beneath the public radar by unelected bureaucrats in the federal departments and agencies through the promulgation of thousands of additional pages of rules and regulations. Thus, whatever bill is ultimately passed, it will still be a pig in a poke. The devil, as they say, will be in the regulatory details.

Responses to Reality is What We Think It Is?

I've never met Robert Lanza, I've only been told he's written this book. Based on his logic, if I choose not to believe he exists--after all, I don't know he exists, since I've never observed him--does that mean he'll go away? - Michael Mays

Lanza's theories are simply Vedanta (a form of Hinduism) dressed in scientific garb. It's monistic pantheism. If all physical reality is actually caused by observation, then in reality there can only be one observer. Nothing but that observer actually exists. That observer/creator is Divine Consciousness. But if the Divine Consciousness cannot observe itself, then It does not exist either. The stupidity of the idea is stupendous. So the switch is made from creation by observation to creation by imagining. Those are two entirely different concepts---but then what's a Divine Consciousness going to do? If Lanza is the divine consciousness, why is he/it imagining he wrote a book, and why is he imagining there are people, and that any of those people will read his book. They and it are not real. So why is this divine consciousness imagining anything, and wherever did it get the idea that imagining something could make it observable, or observable, physically real? Why can't the Divine Consciousness imagine itself without all the imaginations? Whence the Divine amnesia? If I am the Divine Consciousness, then I think Lanza, his book, and his big (old, rehashed) idea are a colossal waste of time, and I am never going to think of it or him ever again. Poof! - Timothy Oliver

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We live complex lives. We strive to sort out priorities that sometimes conflict or seem incompatible. A moral framework is needed to help us understand the reality around us. Our Judeo-Christian heritage provides a framework to help us comprehend the choices we make and the conflicts that arise over them. It is not only the main source of our spiritual values, but also many of the secular values we depend on.

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wesley smith   Wesley J. Smith
Award winning author Wesley J. Smith, the associate director of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, is a senior fellow in human rights and bioethics at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His book Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder (1997), a broad-based criticism of the assisted suicide/euthanasia movement was published in 1997. His book Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America, a warning about the dangers of the modern bioethics movement, was named One of the Ten Outstanding Books of the Year and Best Health Book of the Year for 2001 (Independent Publisher Book Awards). He is currently writing a book about the animal rights movement.
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