Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ralston: Federal Health Board Is Hazardous to Your Health

Richard Ralston, executive director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine, has written an OpEd on the dangers of the proposed Federal Health Board:
Federal Health Board Is Hazardous to Your Health

By Richard E. Ralston
March 23, 2009

Nearly a century ago, the United States Federal Reserve Bank was established. The stated purpose was to eliminate boom and bust and other fluctuations in the U.S. economy. Federal government control of banking and the money supply was declared to be absolutely necessary to eliminate recessions, panics, depressions, inflation and deflation. Federal Reserve banks were set up in major cities across America under the governance of a Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C. It was explained that the Federal Reserve Board would be "independent." All of its "independent" members were appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate (that is, politicians). One wonders what selection process would have made them "dependent."

A century later the Federal Reserve Bank is enshrined as an eternal institution with big staffs and impressive buildings in Washington, D.C. and throughout the country. It appears to be here forever, growing ever more powerful. Politics has never been a factor in the appointment of a board member. The country has been completely free of depressions and recessions. There has never been any inflation. The buying power of our dollars always increases. They are as good as gold. Unemployment has been abolished forever.

Based on this fabulous (i.e., fictional) record, Senator Baucus, former Senator Daschle and others have proposed the creation of a Federal Health Board to govern and ration all medical care in the United States. Such a board, we are told, would be independent from political influence, because its members would be appointed by the President of the United States. It would reduce the cost of medical care and insurance while providing everyone in the United States with all of the medical care they need or want. No new medications approved by the FDA as safe and effective, no new medical devices, no new care facilities or medical and nursing schools will be allowed without the final approval of this board.

Are Americans willing to trust the government with all of their health care requirements? Should we rely on the government to make medical decisions and place our health entirely in the hands of politicians? Should we expect the government to place our needs ahead of powerful hospital groups or public employee unions? Surely we can rely on the government to insure that there are enough medical facilities in our own communities rather than in, say, the district of a powerful committee chairman? Can we expect the Federal Health Board to establish priorities based on the public interest and not their own agendas? Will some diseases become more politically correct than others?

Based on the history of public schools in providing wonderful education to our children—without any trace of ideological indoctrination or politics—shouldn't we ask the government with the help of public employee unions to take over all the medical care of our children? Based on the currently unfunded but rapidly increasing costs of Medicare and Medicaid, shouldn't we trust the government to reduce all medical costs when it takes them over and none of us have anywhere else to go?

Based on its amazingly consistent and ever more competent management of banking and the money supply for one hundred years, should we not immediately take action to create and accept the decisions of a Federal Health Board on each personal detail of our medical care? Do we still really want to allow physicians to decide which drugs to prescribe without first getting permission from the "national health care coordinator"? Based on the spotless record of the Federal Reserve and the flawless performance of public education, what could possibly go wrong with federal control of medicine?

Or should we protect the private patient-physician relationship and the right to manage our own medical care (to the extent those things still exist) and allow investment in as many improved medications and medical devices as possible?

Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine
Any American who values his or her ability to receive quality medical care in the future should heed his warnings.