Congressional Republicans starting to push back against rationing

Derek Hunter Contributor
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On most matters, Congress moves so slowly you’d think they were going backwards. Many times bills languish for years before even getting a hearing in Committee, let alone a vote. For the most part, this is a good thing because it allows for serious deliberation and for Congress to craft a bill that actually addresses the issue fairly thoroughly. But every once in a while something is labeled an “emergency” and put on the fast-track and you get a bill like Obamacare that no one reads or knows what’s in it and, because it is an “emergency,” flies through Congress without regard to consequences. As the government assumes more and more control over our health care, the ramifications of the control it already has are becoming clearer, and more frightening. And, slowly, some members of Congress are starting to speak up.

As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approaches a final decision on whether late-stage breast cancer patients should have access to the life-extending drug Avastin based on its cost, members of Congress have taken notice of the radical effect such a decision would have on the lives of patients.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), who is under consideration by the House Republican leadership to be chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is demonstrating why he would be a solid choice.

Kingston sent a letter to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) demanding a hearing on how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could potentially deny late-stage breast cancer patients with access to the drug Avastin because of the cost of the drug. Kingston wrote:

While I am aware that all drugs have risks, it is my understanding that 17,000 women annually rely on Avastin for treatment of breast cancer with favorable results. In addition, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recently announced its support of the Avastin/paclitaxel combination as an effective choice for doctors and patients. Because of the implications of removing the breast cancer indication from the Avastin label on women currently undergoing treatment, I believe it is imperative that we hold a hearing on Avastin during the upcoming lame duck session.

Not surprisingly, DeLauro, an advocate of rationing and Obamacare, ignored his request. But more to the point — if Kingston did become chairman of the Appropriations Committee and used his committee to provide real and proper oversight of the Obama administration, the taxpayers would be better off. The Appropriations Committee has oversight over every branch of government. Rather than being used solely to fund government, it should be used as a vehicle to protect taxpayer money from waste, fraud and abuse. Kingston seems to get it.

Another letter sent by five members of Congress to the FDA expresses grave concern that the FDA’s actions “pose a serious threat not only to the thousands of breast cancer patients who will no longer have access to life-saving medical interventions, but also pose a threat to the very foundation of our health care system.”

The representatives — Kay Granger (R-TX), Rodney Alexander (R-LA), Jo Bonner (R-AL), Tom Latham (R-Iowa) and Denny Rehberg (R-MT) correctly state that the potential FDA action builds on the Democrat-backed health care reform legislation and is a “large scale intrusion into Americans’ lives and their personal health care decisions that have previously been left up to a patient and their health care provider.” And in case the bureaucrats at the FDA can’t connect the dots, these five Republicans all sit on the House Appropriations Committee and have oversight over the FDA’s funding. With Republicans now holding the gavel, it will be difficult for the FDA to take unilateral action to deny patients access to the drugs they need.

The letter concludes, “the United States health care system is at a crossroads. The fundamental pillars of access, physician choice, and innovation that have led us to prominence are going to be key to the continued success of our health care system. As Members of Congress who fund the agencies that make decisions that are vital to the health of Americans, we express our strong concern that the current Administration is overreaching into the personal health care options of Americans.”

Congress is awakening to the threat that cost-based rationing poses. Avastin is the first battle in the coming rationing wars. While the president and Democrats will make repealing Obamacare impossible, at least until after the 2012 election, attacking it piece by piece, starting with the rejection of government rationing care, will not be fruitless. It is a fight that must happen, and it is a battle that cannot be lost.

Derek Hunter is a Washington based writer and consultant. He can be stalked on Twitter @derekahunter.