Columnist Nat Hentoff is a rarity—a real iconoclast who can’t be browbeaten into accepting what he believes wrong on either side of the aisle. Now Hentoff is having his say on what he calls the “cold heart” of the proposals now before Congress. Hentoff says that current plan will result in “overpowering of the doctor-patient relationship – eventually resulting in the premature ending of many Americans’ lives for being too costly.” He writes:

To call the dangers of this legislation “death panels” obscures the real-life consequences to Americans, not only the elderly, of a federal government-run health care bureaucracy. In the Senate bill, for instance, Medicare doctors whose treatments each year of certain, mostly elderly, patients costs more than a set government figure will be punished by losing part of their own incomes.

The president has indicated that he eventually would like something similar to the British National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (love the Orwellian language!), with a commission deciding about drugs and procedures for patients they’ve never seen in person.  Hentoff notes:


In this country, bureaucrats keeping tabs on patients – without actually seeing them and their condition – will mean, as [Cato’s Michael] Tanner notes, that “every time a doctor decides on a treatment, he or she would have to ask: ‘Does the government think I’m doing this too much? Will I be penalized if I order this test?’” (Disclosure: As a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, I have access to its continuing research.)…


President Obama and his supporters in Congress insist that clinical studies prove how many needless and expensive tests and procedures are so often performed. But these are collective statistics. Individual patients are left out.