August 18th, 2009
04:45 PM ET
5 years ago

CNN Truth Squad: Is health care rationing in the cards?

The Statement:
Jason Rogers of San Antonio, Texas: "Four years ago my father was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. After 18 months, we fought that disease with everything we had. Under a public option or government-run health care system, would that type of care be possible? Is it something that 10 years from now we're going to have to sacrifice or come up with a tremendous amount of cash to pay for it because it would be rationed under our government-run health care system?"

Get the facts and the verdict after the jump:

The Facts:
There is no explicit reference in any version of the legislation to rationing health care and the White House said it doesn't intend to institute a rationing policy. "There are a number of different bills making their way through Congress right now, but we do know this: The reform bill that the president signs will not lead to rationing. It will be fully paid for and it will bring down costs over the long term," the White House said.

But despite the administration's intent, some skeptics believe costs could rise and that shortfalls would create the environment for rationing.

The Cato Institute, a public policy research center, said in a report in June that when Medicare Part A was launched in 1965, the government estimated it would cost about $9 billion per year. But Cato said that by 1990, the cost was closer to $67 billion.

It also said that when the Massachusetts Commonwealth Care was put into place in 2006, it was expected to cost about $725 million annually, but the expected cost for 2009 is almost $1 billion. But Massachusetts officials dispute the Cato figures, saying that the program actually will have cost about $800 million for the 2009 fiscal year when all claims are processed.

"The Congressional Budget Office estimates that existing government health programs would require income-tax rates to rise as high as 66 percent by mid-century," said Michael F. Cannon, Cato's director of health policy studies. "President Obama's new entitlements would require even higher taxes. American voters will not tolerate tax rates that high. Since the government will be the only entity with any incentive to control costs - patients and health-care providers will all be spending other people's money - the government will have to ration care."

President Barack Obama on August 14 spoke at a town hall meeting in Belgrade, Montana, where he raised the issue of rationing in discussing the elimination of "waste and inefficiencies" in Medicare.

"So what we've proposed is not to reduce benefits - benefits on Medicare would stay the same - it's not to ration. What we are asking is that we eliminate some of the practices that aren't making people healthier."

Speaking on August 15 at a town hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado, Obama shot back at the claims by some opponents of reform that the administration is trying to ration care.

"Well, that's what's going on right now," Obama said about rationing and restrictions. "It's just that the decisions are being made by the insurance companies."

The White House's health-care reform reality check Web page says reform will stop rationing, not increase it.

Kavita Patel - who works with White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and worked as a physician - says on that page that the administration wants to combat rationing by insurance companies.

"We want to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions are not denied coverage," she says. "That happens - right now, as we speak. People get kicked out of their insurance plans because they have increased medical costs and they're deemed to be unworthy of coverage. We need to make sure that those people, people like you and me, also have access in case we do get sick, and in case we do lose our jobs, and in case we do need to change from one employer to another."

Verdict:
In dispute. The Obama administration doesn't intend to ration health care, but critics fear that high costs could set the stage for rationing.


Filed under: Health care fact check
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Carnell

    So CNN Has Decided To Finally Fact Check Information Before Joining In On The Political Cheap Shot And Totally Blatent Attack Squads Called Special Interest Groups. Maybe If You Had Done That In The First Place (Act Like Journalists) Besides Play Cheerleaders For The Refuses Who Are In The Republican Party.

    August 18, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "We live in a world of scarce resources where everything is naturally "rationed" based on who can afford those resources..."

    Why is it you GOPers believe in Social Darwinism but deny the existence of evolution? Hmmm? Is it all part of your hypocrisy dance?

    August 18, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  3. Rosie

    If you don't get cost down right now there will be rationing. The public option will keep cost down and that is a good thing. Insurance companies need competition so that cost of insurance goes down. If private health care insurance companies don't have competition they can keep on raising prices all they want. It will soon be that you have to be a millionaire to get health care insurance. I suppose all these rich republicans know that they will still be able to afford health care no matter what.

    August 18, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  4. CTalan

    You may buy up additional insurance at any point in time. Even now.

    Nothing is free now, nor will it be free in the future.

    August 18, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  5. ameda

    "But despite the administration's intent, some skeptics believe costs could rise and that shortfalls would create the environment for rationing."
    And I believe, wait none of you cares what I believe. It is a noise!!!!! "shortfalls would create the environment for rationing" or may not. and we don't know if in 10 years insurance companies will cover this kind of treatment either.
    and the best is your Verdict "The Obama administration doesn't intend to ration health care, but critics fear that high costs could set the stage for rationing." DOESN"T (a fact) vs COULD(speculation).
    the FACT is that government-run health care system as planned by this administration will not ration health care.

    August 18, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  6. Stephen Daugherty

    Not that CNN should not include the Cato Institute's opinion in all this, but should readers not be made aware that the Cato Institute is a Libertarian, partisan institution? They take a negative approach to most any government regulation or reform which treads on their free-market ideology.

    August 18, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  7. Nate

    I noticed that the CNN headline as well as the Political Ticker abstract do not mention whether the position has been debunked or not. In sum, individuals perusing CNN that do not click the headline, and then click 'read the rest of this entry' are left with only fears and horror stories... no facts whatsoever.

    I don't mind digging deeper for info, I make it a habit to regularly do so. However, I find it disconcerting that it takes so much digging to get to the actual facts as most individuals will not go to all that effort. Maybe that's why 75% of Americans are stating that they feel confused by the debate. The facts are hidden under walls of fear-based marketing, both in the debates, and in the news.

    Most people won't click two links deep to get to the info, just like most will skip right past this response as it isn't 140 characters or less. In a world of decreasing interest levels and increasing apathy, in a world where CNN.com has replaced the Times and the Chronicle, why are we hiding the facts behind several layers of fear?

    August 18, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  8. YBM

    Everyone talks about the "49million" not receiving health care. They forget to tell you that 39 million of those 49 million are illegal alliens. Leaving about 10 million real americans without health care.

    I'm for health reform, but it must be the "correct" health reform. Not something to work toward legallizing the illegal allien population in this country to get more democratic voters. Which part of the word "illegal" is not understood? Send them back, anchor babies and the entire family too. That would solve a lot of problems in this country.

    August 18, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "Start with a low supply of doctors and specialists..."

    let's finish the sentence shall we?

    "....who are currently performing excessive services, diagnostic tests, etc., and start giving them the opportunity (nay, obligation) to perform less of them per patient, and suddenly you can get more people served."

    August 18, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  10. Chuck

    You nut jobs that keep saying adding 50 million people to the health care system will lead to rationing are simply repeating what some other nut case said. The 50 million people you think will be added causing rationing are already using the system. They just use emergency rooms instead of seeing a primary care doctor. Their is no difference in how many people will use the system. The only difference is how many more people will have options because they have insurance that they currently do not have now. If anything the effect on people will be to open up emergency rooms to emergencies instead of a cold. Get a clue and stop repeating party rhetoric and look at the facts as they are instead of how you want to see them.

    August 18, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  11. brendan

    Health care is already rationed by health insurance companies by telling you what will and will not be covered and excluding you based on previous conditions. The public debate on this is so out of touch with reality it makes me fear for the present and future of our country.
    Why do people still trust corporations to provide public goods, it is in the law that their first duty is to the stockholders to provide profit?
    Why can't people understand this?

    August 18, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  12. Catfish Esq

    "Under a public option or government-run health care system, would that type of care be possible?"
    What type of care? You don't say what care your father got, or if he received any care at all, or whether he is even still living. You say you fought the disease with all you had, but in what way – did you have to fight your insurance company to approve "experimental" treatments? Did you have to fight your providers to prescribe more aggressive treatment? That's usually what the patients and their families have to fight. How can anyone tell you if the government option would provide care when you don't even identify the care your father received?

    August 18, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  13. SD, Michigan

    There IS rationing right now in the current system, but people don't like to acknowledge that (pre-existing conditions, exorbitant costs,denial of service for any reasons the insurance companies can come up with..etc). It'll get so much worse if nothing gets done.

    August 18, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  14. PaulC

    The U.S. is full of cases of health care rationing by the insurance companies. There is no reason to think that the U.S. can provide perfect health care for the more than 300 million living here regardless of the proposed health care reform or the status quo. No country ever has and no country ever will so accept reality.

    August 18, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  15. CTalan

    Apparently one side favors corporate interests standing between the patient and the doctor determining the treatment.

    Why haven't managed care companies figured out a way to have 50m uninsured become 50m insured people paying premium into the system each month?

    These are big problems.

    August 18, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  16. donttreadonme

    The Congressional Budget Office estimates that existing government health programs would require income-tax rates to rise as high as 66 percent by mid-century,"

    So yes I am skeptical of the Government option!

    August 18, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  17. Brian, Pensacola

    To be honest.. I am not mad at doctors because they get paid what is the going rate.. what is worse is the beauracracy of insurance company execs who get paid loot to determine who gets paid.. think of it like basketball.. if insurance companies are able to pay doctors excess of 200K a year, with hundreds of docs, then how much are the insurance companies making.. I know with all the subsidies and other breaks big business get they aren't shelling it out in taxes to the system... even simplier MJ and Shaq were paid 30 million plus for one year deals.. well how much is the guy getting who wrote their checks.. this debate only highlights the backwards thinking of those who feeling America is only middle class white America... we are all Americans and deserved to be heard.. healthcare for everyone.. if I have to pay 5, 10, or 20 bucks more to help out a FELLOW AMERICAN I will any day hands down!!!!

    August 18, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  18. Albert Sze

    Three years ago, there is no limit on physical Therapy for medicare coverage. Since then, it is limited to around $1800. I take that as rationing health care.

    August 18, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  19. Mitchell Wilson, MD

    The fact is that insurance companies, NOW, make the kinds of draconian decisions that you worry the government will make under ObamaCare. Medicare, the largest insurance program in this country, and a GOVERNMENT program, puts no limits on the kinds of treatments you describe. It is a personal decision how hard someone fights for an extra week or month of life. This is why END OF LIFE discussions are very important, and should be supported in any piece of health care legislation. Doctors should discuss these crucial topics with their patients and patients' families so patients have MORE CHOICE, not less choice.

    Also, there is already DEFACTO rationing in this country, big time. Insurance companies ration care all the time. And for those who have no insurance, they get rationed care because only some medical problems will be treated in an emergency room, and not others. This rationing bug-a-boo is based on a lack of information about the current system. There ALREADY IS rationing. There would be MUCH LESS rationing under health care reform.

    August 18, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. Buckeye Nut Schell

    There is no denying the health care is now rationed by the ability of someone to pay the premiums and/or the cost of medical treatment. What is scaring all of these protesters is if that rationing shifts to include them or not. Currently, economic circumstances dictates eligibility. They that have adaquate (even if that adaquacy is more an illusion than not) insurance plan or ability to pay do not want to risk becoming like the 43,000,000 of those out there that cannot get treatment when they "deserve" it more because of their social status.

    Why not at least be honest about it?

    August 18, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  21. me

    Maybe if everyone paid attention rather than being angry about the whole situation people would start to understand and learn. People are flaunting pics of obama with a hitler moustache (does he really deserve that? there are far worse peole out there) and chanting and yelling...where does that get you? NOWHERE!

    August 18, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  22. DanFango

    Why can't we understand that the Private Insurance Industry has a built-in conflict of interest: the health of their customers vs. the profits to their shareholders?
    Republicans, of course always expect to win conflicts of interest.
    If anyone is pulling the plug on Granny, it's Private Insurance. They've been doing it for years.

    August 18, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  23. MELODY

    As a disabled person on medicare I can honestly say the doctors are all about profits as well as the insurance industry. I moved from a rural town to the capitol city of my state to avoid the expense of travel to doctors. When I tried to find a primary care physician and two other doctors I was told they are not accepting new paitients. I thought they were too busy. It turns out that after Bush signed the law allowing doctors to only accept a small percentage of medicare and medicaid patients that was the reason I was turned away. I have multiple disabilities and require quite a few doctors which I have had to transfer to clinics. My primary care physician is an intern although she is a very good doctor. So, I truely don't see rationing by lack of doctors but from greed.

    August 18, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  24. kb

    Why not let some of the people who have no insurance help in the
    process of public health insurance – who then them know better what
    would really help. All those in government working on this have the best
    available health insurance access. Until you have no insurance or
    the means to pay for it you have no idea what it really is like. It is unbelievable that in a country as rich & smart as America that we have
    this huge health insurance issue. All we are doing is making a bigger
    division from the very rich to the very poor and middle class is going
    away. It is a very sad situation.

    August 18, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  25. Don in Silver Spring

    Your article states, "The Cato Institute, a public policy research center, said that when Medicare Part A was launched in 1965, the government estimated it would cost about $9 billion per year. But Cato said that by 1990, the cost was closer to $67 billion." Why not factor into this set of figures the cost of inflation between 1965 and 1990. Assuming the Cato's figures are correct, most of that increase would reflect the general cost of living increase over those 25 years/. But then, The Cato Institute is less a think tank than a group of think-alikes who will use any statistics they can devise to support their unfailing right-wing thinking. I've long since learned to take their "research" with a strong whiff of suspicion. That they claim to have researched the issue and given us this data is par on their course.

    August 18, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
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