Obama Adviser Urges Controversial “Senior Death Discount” In Health Care Reform

Obama Adviser Urges Controversial “Senior Death Discount” In Health Care Reform

Democrats Flip-Flop on Disparate Treatment for the Elderly

Washington, DC, July 24, 2009—White House health care policy advisor Ezekiel Emanuel favors allocating fewer health care resources to senior citizens in order to save money, the Competitive Enterprise Institute discovered today.  In a medical journal article published earlier this year, Emanuel justified rationing health care services based on the controversial “senior death discount.”

“Cost-benefit and comparative-benefit analysis are useful tools and should be used in analyzing regulatory policies,” said CEI Senior Fellow Gregory Conko. “But, when President Obama tells Americans that his health reform proposals, which use the senior death discount, will ensure they get the highest quality care, he’s selling them a bill of goods.” 

In recent weeks, Democratic members of Congress have criticized Cass Sunstein, nominee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, because Sunstein favors the statistical practice of taking into account years of life expectancy when evaluating the benefits of regulatory proposals, a practice critics deride as the “senior death discount.”  However, health policy advisor Emanuel recommends using the same senior death discount policy to ration health care services for elderly Americans.

In a January article published in the British medical journal Lancet, Emanuel and his co-authors advocate a health rationing policy that discriminates against older people.  They wrote, “Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination … Treating 65-year-olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life years is not.” And, “although life-years are equally valuable to all, justice requires the fair distribution of them.”

“Current analytical tools don’t take sufficient account of the vast differences among individuals in physiology or value preferences,” Conko explained, “so they should be relied upon much more sparingly where collective decision-making is intended to cut off individual choice. This is a controversial move, but health care reformers are happy to rely on the senior death discount when it can help them book savings for their proposals.”

> Read commentary by Gregory Conko at OpenMarket.org.