The Audacity of Perpetuity

DrRich | March 30th, 2010 - 7:20 pm


As DrRich promised, he has embarked on an exploration of how our new healthcare law will enable our government to attempt the difficult job of covertly rationing our healthcare, a job which Congress had previously designated by law to the insurance companies. (DrRich is not making this up. See Pegram et al. V. Herdrich (98-1949), 530 U.S. 211; 2000.*)

DrRich considers himself to be a reasonably sophisticated person, perhaps even more sophisticated than Ms. Palin, so he did not really expect that Congress would pass a new healthcare law that established actual “death panels.” However, DrRich also understands that the new law, which covers over 2400 pages, has actually been read from front to back by only a very few, very dedicated individuals – and, likely, by hardly any who voted for it – and so, in the interest of thoroughness, DrRich searched the document for the phrase “death panel.” He is pleased to report that there were no matches.

What he did find, however, in Section 3403, is something called the Independent Medicare Advisory Board. The purpose of the IMAB is to “reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending.” In his next post DrRich will examine the IMAB in more detail, to try to show exactly how this board will reduce healthcare spending. Suffice to say for now that the new law awards the IMAB sweeping powers, powers that will affect all American healthcare (and not just Medicare), and that hands the government some truly useful tools for covert rationing.

In the present post DrRich will simply make two striking observations about the IMAB which, he believes, ought to tell us something useful about the mindset of those who – in striving to fundamentally transform America – have now successfully remade our healthcare system.

First, as the IMAB carries out its assigned job of reducing the growth in healthcare spending, it is explicitly forbidden to ration healthcare. Specifically, the IMAB’s proposals “shall not include any recommendation to ration health care.” Since rationing is Job One, this directive necessarily limits the IMAB to engaging in covert rationing (since covert rationing is, by definition, deniable by the party who is doing it). Thus, covert rationing is now the law of the land.

And second, Section 3403, the section that creates the IMAB and spells out its functions, contains language that, DrRich suspects, has never been seen before in American legislative history:

“It shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection.”

So, dear reader, the IMAB and all its legislated functions (including the requirement to do its rationing covertly) are in force for perpetuity. Our Congress has passed legislation that purports to bind all future Congresses from altering it in any way.

We can surmise from this fact that those who wrote this law must consider the IMAB to be very, very important. Indeed, it must necessarily be the most important feature of our new healthcare system. It may, in fact, be the most important legislative provision ever written (since no other provision has ever received such extraordinary protections from any future alterations whatsoever). For this reason, in future posts DrRich will attempt to examine in some detail the powers that have been granted – for all time – to the IMAB.

But for now DrRich asks his readers simply to bask in the utter audacity of our current crop of leaders, leaders who are so sure they know what’s best for us that they were willing to engage in all manner of legislative legerdemain to get their way, not only against the apparent expressed will of the people, but also (as it turns out) against the objections any future American Congress may have that is sent to Washington by those people.

Not even our Constitution itself – a document that attempted to establish a government for all time – was as audacious as this. For the Constitution, at least, provided a mechanism for its own alteration.

As DrRich racked his brain to think of the last time a law was promulgated with such audacity – not with the audacity of hope, but the audacity of perpetuity – he initially drew a blank. Even monarchs who purported to reign under Divine Right understood that future monarchs, who would also rule under the same God-given right, might justly alter any laws they made.

DrRich believes we need to go all the way back to Moses, coming down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments, to find a law or set of laws that, from the moment they were written, were decreed to remain in force for ever and ever.

Only God has ever tried this before.

*In its unanimous opinion on Pegram et al. V. Herdrich, the Supreme Court spelled out what Congress had in mind when it created HMOs. That ruling said, the “inducement to ration care is the very point of any HMO scheme, and rationing necessarily raises some risks while reducing others.”

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