Betsy McCaughey: Health Care Reform Will Lead To Natasha Richardson-Style Deaths

Betsy McCaughey is back. This time, she has stuffed the entire stimulus bill into a large white binder — a sort of fundamentalist bible McCaughey uses to misinterpret the intentions of the legislation. McCaughey is still preaching that the stimulus bill contains provisions that “provide less care” and tie doctors hands in prescribing procedures — but this time, she’s added to her sermon.

In her new comeback tour of Fox News Channel programming, McCaughey regurgitates insurance-industry arguments against the public plan option and argues that the government will import Canadian-style rationing into the American health system. Short: We will all end up like Natasha Richardson:

– On public option: “The public plan will pay doctors and hospitals below market rates, as Medicaid and Medicare currently do, and doctors and hospitals will have to shift those costs to the private health plans, including the one you get at work, and therefore those premiums in the private sector will go up to unaffordable levels.”

– Cost benefit killed Richardson: HOST: So she’s lying there, they have a CT scanner — and it’s my understanding that we don’t know ether or not they used it. But there’s no doubt that what you’re talking about, this cost-benefit analysis, went into that decision. McCAUGHEY: Exactly.

– Critical choice for Americans: The really critical issues here for all Americans is to think twice about whether they want to lower their healthcare costs if it will mean that they don’t get the care they need to live.

Watch a video compilation:

McCaughey’s connection between Canadian single payer health care and Richarson’s death is unclear. McCaughey quotes Dr. Saba, an emergency room doctor at Lachine Hospital, as saying that the hospital had to conduct a cost-benefit analysis before performing a CT scan. It’s unknown if a scan was performed, but McCaughey certainly misquotes the doctor. He discusses cost benefit in the context of deploying a medical rapid response unit — “You have to do a cost-benefit analysis,” Saba said. “It takes time to get the helicopter’s medical team assembled, get the helicopter to the location of the patient, pack in the patient and fly the helicopter to Montreal” — not a life-saving test. In fact, while the United States is generally better equipped to handle medical emergencies, we consider similar factors before dispatching a medical unit.

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In fact, any health care system operates on criteria that are based on general characteristics, not individual patients. A fever of 101 degrees triggers a different medical response than a fever of 98 degrees. Similarly, a hospital won’t dispatch a helicopter for someone who broke his leg, but would send a rapid response unit if paramedics believed that the patient sustained internal injuries. In 2005, a study concluded that “60 people have have died in 84 air ambulance crashes since 2000 — “more than double the number of crashes during the previous five years.” The report cited “a 2002 study in The Journal of Trauma that found helicopters were used “excessively” for patients who weren’t severely injured.”

In Canada, publicly financed health insurance plans provide universal coverage to the entire population “while constraining spending and largely protecting the clinical autonomy of physicians.” Canada has lower overall costs, administrative efficiency, and higher satisfaction rates, but it is not without it’s problems. McCoughey’s modus operandi is to distort certain inefficiencies — like longer waiting lines for specialty procedures — and suggest that American reformers would simply copy-and-paste the system.

To be clear, nobody in the administration is proposing selling off rapid response equipment, applying emergency care only in cost-effective scenarios, or converting to a single-payer system. On the contrary, reducing health care costs by investing in medical research (to figure out which procedures work and which don’t), building on the employer-based model of delivering care, investing in preventive care, and adopting health information technology to increase efficiency in medicine, would empty over-crowded emergency rooms and increase quality of care. Despite what’s in McCaughey’s binder, American health care reform would not deny care to fatally injured trauma victims.

McCaughey is exploiting Richardson’s death to scare Americans about health care reform that has little similarly to the Canadian model. She’s arguing that Canadian health care somehow led to Richardson’s death. But America’s patchwork insurance system has caused 20,000 Americans to die each year from complications- related to being uninsured — more than die from Parkinson’s, homicides and HIV/AIDS.

Her outrage is selective, and it has political ends.

Transcript:

McCAUGHEY: The public plan will pay doctors and hospitals below market rates, as Medicaid and Medicare currently do, and doctors and hospitals will have to shift those costs to the private health plans, including the one you get at work, and therefore those premiums in the private sector will go up to unaffordable levels.

The more important issue is this: Embedded in the stimulus legislation, which has already passed, provisions that will mean less healthcare for you. These have already been passed. In here is a provision for a national electronic medical information technology system that will deliver protocols to your doctor — protocols that will tell your doctor to limit care to what the government’s advisors deem cost-effective. This bill will mean that even if you have a private health plan, your doctor is going to be told to provide less care than you already get.

FOX: They also raised some questions about whether the Canadian health system played a part in her tragic death. Joining us is healthcare expert Betsy McCaughey, she is former lieutenant governor of New York.

McCAUGHEY: Well Dr. Paul Saba, the emergency room physician has told the press that doctors have to do a cost-benefit analysis. In the U.S., when an accident victim is brought in, all resources are used, that patient is given every chance to live. Unfortunately, there is more and more emphasis on cost-benefit analysis, and the new stimulus legislation, just passed in Washington, actually will require doctors to practice cost-effective care and the government will monitor it to make sure they do it

FOX: So she’s lying there, they have a CT scanner — and it’s my understanding that we don’t know ether or not they used it. But there’s no doubt that what you’re talking about, this cost-benefit analysis, went into that decision

McCAUGHEY: Exactly. And it’s very important for Americans to understand when they hear that the government is going to lower the cost of your healthcare, it means fewer nurses on the floor, longer waits for treatment, and doctors who are forced to think about the cost before they give you the treatment to make you live. The really critical issues here for all Americans is to think twice about whether they want to lower their healthcare costs if it will mean that they don’t get the care they need to live.

Update:

Media Matters has more.