August 18th, 2009
04:45 PM ET
10 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."

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. phoenix86

    Health rationing is not in the cards. It is, however, in the House and Senate bills currently being supported by the democrats and Obama.

    The word doesn't appear, but it is there to see if anyone bothers to think through the proposals under discussion at the moment.


    August 18, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "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? "

    It's not that they don't know's that they don't want to. You see, an overwhelming majority of those 50 million people generally represent some of the riskiest in th epopulation to insure. Insurance companies want to take your premiums and keep them, not pay them out for services. That's how they make a profit. Ergo, if private insurers didn't go as far as the law will currently allows them to go to exclude the subset of the population that represents the highest risk groups, the CEOs wouldn't be pewping in $30K toilets and flying off the beach house #5 in their personal helicopter. That, apparently, is unacceptable to the GOP and their ilk. Keep in mind, the top 17 paid insurance CEOs made enough money last year combined to fund 5,000 cancer treatments at an average of $40K per treatment. They can't do that if they suddenly have to insure the homeless.

    August 18, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. donttreadonme

    Why argue the Public Option is essentially off the table. Only the most leftist of the dems are fighting for this. We want reform that is good for all of Americans and doesn’t create additional Government waste and fraud. Let’s end the march towards Socialism and the Bankruptcy of America!

    August 18, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  4. Charles Scouten

    Rationing means if you do not qualify even a fistful of dollars won't buy you the item. Think back to World War II – no stamp no gas or tires or meat. Same with triage – somebody does not get what is in short supply. Think back to April 29, 1975 of the people left on the roof of an apartment building in downtown Saigon where senior CIA employees were housed – the chopper left and never came back. That is true rationing. It was not lack of the price of a ticket that got some folks left, it was lack of a seat period. Indeed, had someone trieed to bribe their way onto the chopper, others might well have thrown them off the building.

    Now, the fellow cited in the article says they "threw everything they had" at his father's cancer. Did not mention M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, arguably the best cancer centert in the world. Why not? Ignorance? Maybe. Lack of money? Maybe. But rationing? No way. No way now, and no way under any reform bill that is likely to emerge from the Congress. Talk about rationing is dishonest scare tactics pure and simple. Perpetrating such rumor is damaging to this country just as surely as any other flavor of treason.

    August 18, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  5. Red W Blue

    She needs to stay and run for govenor! Chuck DeVore is all a Twitter for the U S Senate in California!

    August 18, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  6. Scott Mansfield, San Francisco CA

    Of course there will be rationing. Much as we hate to admit it, regardless of whether it's private of public coverage, there will be times when someone needs to weigh cost vs. benefits for a procedure. Now who are you going to trust to make these decisions about your condition: an employee in a for-profit company who gets bonuses and promotions for denying service to you, or a government employee who gets the same pay whatever the outcome?

    August 18, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  7. Diane

    Republicans want us to live in fear. If we don't pass reform now, then we'll never get it. If you are lucky to have insurance today, you probably won't have it for long. Medical costs are rising each day and insurance companies aren't payout to consumers. It's only a matter of time, today you have insurance, tomorow you won't. Pass reform NOW!

    August 18, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  8. Voted4HealthCare

    Republican fear-mongering, distortions, and criticisms are sadly typical for their negativity these days, instead of constructive ideas. Corporate insurance already rations care and denies our coverage.

    The Senate Finance Committee needs to STOP pandering and trying to appease the Party of NO intention. The GOP will not vote for this bill regardless. Enough of the nonsense.

    Americans voted for a representative majority towards health-care reforms with a public option, as the House admirably passed in ALL three committees. It is time for the Senate Finance to be handled by FULL committee once and for all so that Americans (not corporate lobbyists) get what they voted for last election with a public option.

    August 18, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  9. Ric Miranda

    Teddy Roosevelt was called a liberal by the rich for the work he did to uplift the lower classes. Nowadays, this term is used more and more by the very people that these so-called liberals are trying to help. The rich did not become rich by being dumb. They own the insurance companies that will lose profit, and the rich people who will have to pay more in taxes if health care reform pushes through.
    The rich opponents of health care reform know that the best way to win this war is by using people's ignorance to work for them.

    August 18, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  10. Albert from Highland, NY

    If 47 million Americans not having Health Care is accurate, then that would be 15.66666% of a total US population of 300 million. So, statements implying that greater than 84.44444% of individual Americans already have coverage are inaccurate. Or, maybe 47 million is not correct.

    August 18, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
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