If George Washington was the father of our country, Benjamin Franklin was its grandfather. While the former was fighting the British at home, the latter was on the other side of the Atlantic securing the money and arms that kept the revolution alive. It is no exaggeration to say that, without Franklin’s indefatigable diplomatic efforts in Europe, the American Revolution would have failed. What has this to do with Obamacare? When that conflict was officially ended by the Treaty of Paris, Franklin was 77 — well past the age when key ACA architect Ezekiel Emanuel says we should all embrace death.
Last week the Atlantic published an essay by Emanuel titled, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” wherein he avers that “families — and you — will be better off if nature takes its course swiftly and promptly.” Note the words “you” and “families.” Its title notwithstanding, Emanuel’s article isn’t really about himself. It is actually a none-too-subtle attempt to make us feel guilty for burdening our families, and society in general, by clinging to life past what he considers the optimum age to die. In other words, it is you whom he hopes will go gentle into that good night after three-quarters of a century.
Emanuel is a notorious proponent of medical rationing, and has long advocated denying care to the elderly. In fact, just prior to his 2009 appointment to President Obama’s Coordinating Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research, he co-authored an article in the Lancet which promotes allocation of health care resources according to the age of the patient. In its introduction, he and his co-authors recommend a rationing system that would prioritize “people who have not yet lived a complete life” yet go on to claim, “Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination.”
Good luck selling that to Granny, who may have her own ideas about the optimum point at which to shuffle off her mortal coil. But, like all progressives, Emanuel is less concerned about the needs of individuals than those of the collective. His Lancet piece is obviously a set of socialist shibboleths, and it is by no means the only such manifesto he has written. In this 2013 article for the Journal of the American Medical Association, he bemoans the hidebound attitude of a physician community that still insists on putting the health of individual patients before what he perceives to be the good of society.
And, somehow, the good of society always involves stiffing seniors. Why does he pick on older people? For the same reason Willy Sutton is (inaccurately) said to have given when asked why he robbed banks. That’s where the money is. About 25 percent of Medicare’s annual budget, for example, is consumed by elderly patients during the last year of their lives. Emanuel and other advocates of rationing, including one who chastised me in the New York Times for asking if Americans deserve a health care system run by soulless bureaucrats, believe that the only way to solve the problem is to deny Granny care.
But this has never played well with the voters. The more they learn about Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) and the “end-of-life counseling” that has once again reared its ugly head, the less they like the “reform” law that Emanuel helped design. So, in his Atlantic piece, he attempts to convince us that he is willing to make the same sacrifice that he advocates for the rest of us. Oddly enough, though, Emanuel concludes his article with the following caveat: “I retain the right to change my mind.” When rationing begins, however, few seniors will have that choice.
Like most policy experts who support rationing, Dr. Emanuel is a man of independent means. If, at age 75, he is diagnosed with some serious disease whose treatment isn’t paid for by his government coverage, he can simply write a check. Most of America’s seniors are not quite so affluent. They are predominantly retired working people whose earnings were skimmed every payday in order to keep Medicare solvent. This is why the public overwhelmingly rejects rationing. They have spent a lifetime paying into the mythical Medicare Trust fund, and they expect coverage when they need it.
Tragically, that’s what Great Britain’s seniors also expected after enduring decades of ever-increasing taxes paid to keep the National Health Service afloat. Now, however, they discover that the NHS is writing them off if they require cancer treatment after reaching age 75. The people who run the NHS, like Dr. Emanuel and the other architects of Obamacare, are always ready to sacrifice seniors to the cause. And, regardless of the rhetoric, that’s where Obamacare is going. It’s the purpose of Comparative Effectiveness Research, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, and end-of-life counseling.
But Dr. Emanuel says that life after 75 isn’t worth living anyway. Really? Ronald Reagan was 76 when he stood before the Brandenburg Gate and said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Mahatma Gandhi was 77 when he saw his dream of Indian Independence come true. Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa at 76. And Benjamin Franklin attended the Constitutional Convention at age 81. What would the latter have said about Dr. Emanuel’s wisdom concerning the optimum age to die? As Franklin put it in his autobiography, “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”
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