WASHINGTON (CNN) – Surrounded by a group of parents clutching pictures of their special needs children, two Republican members of Congress stood in front of the Capitol on Tuesday and warned that President Obama's proposed health care system will lead to a rationing of care for children with disabilities.
GOP Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said at a news conference that government-run health care systems, wherever they exist in the world, inevitably force health providers to refuse care to people with chonically-ill family members in order to reduce costs. Both members of Congress said the issue hits close to home: McMorris-Rodgers has a son with Down Syndrome, and Franks was born with a cleft palate.
"Whenever there is pressure on government to cut costs, and that is ostensibly the purpose here, the reality is a lot of times the doctors take their hands off the situation," Franks said. He also predicted that the president's health care legislation will lead to "the largest expansion of abortion since Roe vs. Wade."
The two Republicans then heard from nearly a dozen parents who claimed that their disabled children would be discriminated against under the Democratic plan. Several pointed out that the President's health care adviser Ezekiel Emanuel - brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and a frequent target of the presidential plan's critics - has written articles in the past in support of rationing care. Emanuel has since said his thinking has changed on the matter.
McMorris-Rodgers could not point to any specific language in the legislation currently before Congress that would deny health care to disabled children, but she said she and the families were worried that a government-run health insurance plan would give power to a government bureaucrat who would be able to decide whether or not "certain procedures or certain devices" would be covered for individuals.
The independent fact-checker PolitiFact wrote last month that there "is no panel in any version of the health care bills in Congress that judges a person's 'level of productivity in society' to determine whether they are 'worthy' of health care."
Asked if she could elaborate specific proposals to help low-income people with disabled family members purchase health insurance, McMorris-Rodgers said she supports tax breaks and savings accounts for affected families. The congresswoman co-sponsored a bill to create such accounts in February.