Healthy stimulus

The abomination that is President Obama’s so-called economic “stimulus” giveaway contains untold billions of dollars worth of spending that has nothing to do with preserving jobs and everything to do with growing bureaucracies.

What better way to cram through Congress major policy changes that have no chance of passing on their own? By warning that a financial catastrophe was imminent without the bill’s passage, what better way to begin the Democratic Party’s incremental plan to seize even more control of the country’s health care system?

In all, health care expenditures total more than $147 billion in the $787 billion handout — about one-fifth of the legislation’s total cost. Nearly $90 billion will prop up state Medicaid programs, which cover the medical bills of the poor. Additionally, the federal government will pay two-thirds of COBRA premiums for millions of recently laid-off workers for up to nine months.

However, comparatively smaller expenditures are raising the most alarms among privacy advocates and civil libertarians who worry about government efforts to collect and store personal information on citizens.

About $19 billion will be spent on the development of a national digital repository of health care records, an idea many Democrats have championed as a means of cutting health care costs, reducing misdiagnoses and improving treatment prospects.

Most of the $19 billion has been set aside to bribe health care providers to send their patients’ records to the Department of Health and Human Services. However, by 2015, doctors and hospitals who bill Medicare and Medicaid for services would be fined for not participating in the program.

Once these records begin flowing through cyberspace into Washington, more than $1 billion will be spent studying and comparing the effectiveness of medical and surgical procedures and prescription drugs. President Obama and Democrats believe such a broad analysis of medical data can help the government distinguish which treatments and drugs work best and which fail deliver a quality-of-life improvement commensurate with the cost.

The changes these initiatives could bring — and the abuses they invite — are frightening. Newly hired bureaucrats, analysts that might have no scientific or medical training, will be reviewing the most personal information of millions of Americans. And the results of “comparative effectiveness research” could one day be used by Medicare and Medicaid administrators to deny treatments and ration care.

Democrats clearly learned from President and Hillary Clinton’s brazen attempt to nationalize American medicine in one fell swoop in the early ’90s. Once exposed to the sunshine of open debate and public scrutiny, their proposal’s horrendous flaws scared away millions.

No, the kind of transparency President Obama had promised to embrace doesn’t mesh with efforts to expand federal power. Best to sneak the creation of new, centralized authorities and intervention-enabling “studies” into crisis-driven legislation, lest the opposition be given time to mount an organized response.

These expenditures are no “stimulus” — the Congressional Budget Office says that because the federal government will need time to lay the information technology infrastructure to manage the programs, the vast majority of the money won’t be spent until 2011 at the soonest. This was simply an expedient excuse to put the dangerous theories of liberal policy wonks into practice — with Americans serving as the guinea pigs.

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