Rationing Flu Shots

How Government Rationing Works

Lining up for work

Today’s Wall Street Journal article, Health Matters: Why Older Americans Will Have to Wait for Swine-Flu Shots, shines a little ray of light on the mechanism of rationing health services. Such rationing will become more prevalent should the Waxman or the Baucus plan be adopted for taking control of the nation’s health care system.

Central planning inexorably leads to rationing. While reading the following quotes, look for the words queue, federal health officials, and allotting. Look for actions to be based on government studies.

“Older Americans are normally at the front of the queue for shots against the seasonal flu viruses.”

“But so far the new H1NI flu is largely sparing the 60-plus demographic, instead hitting children and young adults the hardest. That’s because many people 60 and older were exposed to H1N1 viruses that circulated between 1918 and 1957.”

“A study by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about one-third of adults age 60 and older had anti-bodies that protected them. Children had none.”

“With the risk of infection lower for older adults, federal health officials are allotting the swine-flu vaccine first to pregnant women, children and young adults, and anyone under 65 with asthma, diabetes or another medical condition that can increase their risk of complications from the flu. The CDC  says older adults should be offered the vaccine only when there’s enough medicine for all the other priority groups.”

With limited resources, only 195 million doses, someone has to do the rationing. In this case, it’s the government. Markets and prices do the rationing of avocados, DVD players, and weekends at Club Med.

When the government gets more control of health care, it will do more of the rationing. It will be determined by boards and panels and officials, acting on studies. The officials will use statistics and do the allocation.

What about my friend who is 93 and hasn’t got the anti-bodies? He gets passed over. He is in the group of which one-third has anti-bodies. He is a low priority. Membership in this group, statistical branding, consigns him to a higher risk.

But someone has to make the hard calls, right? We are being told: Trust the CDC, trust the panels. Someone has to pull the plug. Someone has to deny coverage for things that we, as a nation, cannot afford. That’s the unpleasant reality of allocation, a.k.a. rationing. This is why older people are fearful of Democratic health plans.

This is the long way of putting what Sarah Palin so succinctly put when she coined the phrase about termination panels.

Swine-flu decisions give us a preview of allocations under HR 3200, the Baucus bill, or the Obama plan, (whatever that is).

We see today how rationing works.