One of the few prodigious accomplishments of the Republican Congress was the 2017 budget act elimination of the Obamacare Independent Payment Advisory Board.
Sarah Palin mischievously labeled the board a "death panel" that would use questionable data to control who would be reimbursed for healthcare costs in the U.S. and who would not (and die).
National Institute of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins has resurrected the data part of the payment board in his just announced "All of Us Research Program."
It would collect comprehensive "personalized" health and genetic data from one million Americans over "five or six years," with the goal of finding the best "individualized prevention, treatment, and care for all of us."
Collins was acting under the authority of the 21st Century Cures Act he helped write and was appointed by President Barack Obama to execute as part of his healthcare "transformation."
The NIH Director promised data would be protected from subpoena, search warrant, and staff-oaths not to diverge information. He did not mention that government staffs leak information regularly — the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) inspector general found 1,500 examples — and more importantly that he cannot keep the information from being hijacked by outsiders.
As a director of the civil service years ago, I would have promised anyone that its ultra-sensitive personnel files with all sorts of gossip and malice kept in closely-monitored individual files would always remain confidential. Congress later passed an IT expansion act and one of my successors did not obtain an exception to it, so China stole the 22 million then-digitalized files.
One of today’s top officials conceded privately that Chinese intelligence now knows more about America’s former and present political leaders that we do, right down to every social weakness, mental health problem or nasty words or actions reported in intensive investigations that include even fingerprints.
Collecting computerized data over five years from millions will almost certainly be hacked sooner or later as it has been at the dozen agencies we know about.
But assume all goes well. What then?
The government would have all kinds of data on enough people to claim it knows how to make all of us healthy. Sounds good but, of course, such correlation is not causation, as the dean of John Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, the head of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the CEO of Children’s National Health System were careful to caution at a recent C-SPAN-covered forum in Washington D.C.
In fact, based upon the best correlated data, government dietary experts had warned against saturated fats for 40 years before forced to recant in 2016.
The forum participants were anxious to get the data, however, constantly promoting more research. This provoked the very progressive moderator to jump in to expresses his biases condemning business seeking special treatment in medical school admissions, research, drug treatments and hospital decisions, questioning whether his participants were bowing to private interests in raising funds for their institutions, which they were anxious to deny.
This pressure inadvertently led the equally progressive forum participants to state that they actually spent most of their time selling the public and officials on their efforts to assist the ill. Indeed they all noted that the major source of their income came not from business but from the government in Medicaid, Medicare and research grants, with much of their effort taken responding to officials and their demands, especially to keep costs low.
The other unanimous conclusion among these medical leaders based upon the data now available was that the best prospect for better health and lower costs was not for cancer, heart, drug abuse or even smoking. It was obesity that was the most statistically associated as leading to other illnesses and their associated expenses and was the most serious preventable problem. That data lead to the conclusion that the way to reduce illness and costs is to control what people eat.
From the very beginning, President Obama’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Peter Orszag announced that the true test of Obamacare over the long term would be to reduce health costs from "efficiencies" based upon "effectiveness research," which resulting decrease in health services was what alarmed Palin.
The obvious way to eliminate the obesity which ostensibly causes the other medical problems would be to have people stop eating fattening food, which most of it is. The NIH research would surely confirm the obesity correlation and lead to the then empirically verified conclusion that controlling what people eat should become the nation’s top healthcare priority.
And with government paying the bills, it would be able to enforce it.
It might not be death panels but it would be slim pickings for "all of us" overweight Americans.
Donald Devine is senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies, the author of "America’s Way Back: Reclaiming Freedom, Tradition and Constitution," and was Ronald Reagan’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management during his first term. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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