Human Exceptionalism

Obamacare’s Cost to the Individual

Nat Hentoff is a celebrated individual libertarian and had a storied career as a columnist at the Village Voice–hardly a precursor to the Weekly Standard.  He has a good column out warning about the cost of Obamacare to the individual. First, he notes the rarely-discussed tax on medical devices imposed by Obamacare (which I have never understood either, since the tax will increase costs). From, “What Still Shocks Me About Obamacare:”

And with the tax on medical devices in Obamacare unimpeded by the Supreme Court ruling, here’s a current example of a lifesaving medical device that will get hit with a tax increase: “In November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an innovative product called the Sapien Transcatheter Heart Valve, for the treatment of severe aortic valve stenosis. The Sapien valve can be implanted endoscopically, making it a boon for patients who are too sick to endure open-heart surgery” (“FDA Approvals Are a Matter of Life and Death,” The Wall Street Journal, Andrew von Eschenbach and Ralph Hall, June 18).

But because of a longtime outmoded FDA regulatory process, “The Sapien valve has been available in Europe since 2007, saving lives there but not here.” Now even more Americans will be denied the Sapien valve than before with the excise tax burden on medical devices taking effect in January 2013. Noted the Times’ Pear: “In anticipation of the tax, some manufacturers (of medical devices) have announced plans to lay off workers or reorganize operations.”

And, he gets into the group-think that will be used in the cost/benefit/rationing boards, that depersonalize medicine, an issue I have worried about here:

As for Obamacare’s cost-efficient bureaucrats deciding how long many of us will continue to be around, almost three years ago I explained that “President Obama and his supporters in Congress insist that clinical studies prove how many needless and expensive tests and procedures are so often performed” (“Be Scared: Obamacare Endangers Our Life Spans,”, Dec. 2, 2009).

“But,” I added, “these are collective statistics. Individual patients are left out.” And to find out what’s working for them, each patient has to be monitored and assessed one at a time. More nakedly and truthfully, I quoted Harvard Medical School professor Dr. James Thrall, who said: Rulings “based on costs and large group averages, not individuals,” made him fear that “we are entering an era of deliberate decisions where we choose to trade people’s lives for money.”

Yes. That is the cost to the individual of centralized control based on collectivist care models.


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