As Sick Children Suffer for Congressional Incompetence

For reasons no one has yet explained, a provision in the new health care reform law removes a previously Congressionally-mandated discount to children’s hospitals for drugs used to treat so-called “orphan diseases,” illnesses that are not common enough for the drugs to be profitable. Pharmaceutical companies have begun notifying the hospitals that they no longer qualify for the discounts, and the change will cost  hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as put sick kids at risk.

Under the new law, hundreds of rural hospitals became eligible for drug discounts for the first time, but under another provision, children’s hospitals lost discounts, which range from 30-50% . Not only that: many of the drugs removed from the discount program are used to treat more common maladies as well.

The physicians are horrified. Joshua D. Greenberg, vice president of Children’s Hospital Boston, said that loss of the discounts “jeopardizes our ability to care for some of the sickest children with the most complex health care needs.” Democrats are abashed: one House Democrat told the New York Times that the situation resulted from “an honest mistake in drafting,” and added, “No one intended to take away any of the drug discounts that children’s hospitals already had.” For its part, the Times paved the way for excuses for the law it re;entlessly promoted by calling the result an “unintended consequence” of healthcare reform.

Not so fast. This isn’t an example of “unintended consequences,” which is when complex actions lead to results no one could have predicted. Don’t let anyone, especially a Democratic supporter, a blind admirer of the health care bill, or a fan of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, , feed you that deceitful line. The loss of the drug discount occurred because…

Nobody                                read                                 the                                         bill!!!!!!

In their offensive, undemocratic, arrogant and incompetent rush to get the 3000 page monstrosity passed without allowing genuine debate on the merits or providing a full opportunity for the public to know what was in it, OR a real assessment of the costs and consequences of the law to the many groups whose lives would be affected by it—-like sick children— Democrats in the House and Senate allowed the bill to swell to unreadable proportions, and then not only neglected to read what they were voting for, but baldly admitted that they weren’t reading it. Pass the bill to learn what’s in it, Speaker Pelosi said…and she meant just that.

Well, we still haven’t learned what is in it. The loss of the discount for children’s hospitals isn’t the last unpleasant surprise waiting, you can count on it. There will be more. And none of them are unpredictable, “unintended consequences” of a complex law. They are 100% predictable consequences of the unethical lack of diligence, competence and respect for the lawmaking process by a callous group of reckless ideologues who were determined to pass something called “health care reform” but couldn’t be bothered to make sure that damn thing didn’t hurt people…by reading it. By checking it.

By making sure they knew what was in it before they passed it.

Every single Senator and House member who voted for the final bill is responsible for the current plight of children with orphan diseases.

If that doesn’t make you furious, nothing will.

4 thoughts on “As Sick Children Suffer for Congressional Incompetence

  1. Jack,
    Not that I disagree, but from a policy standpoint there is little to be done. I suppose laws could be enacted to ensure all bills are read before being voted on, but this would like trying to legislate that every kid in America finishes his homework. Moreover, reading the bills alone means little as most of them are guised in so many layers of legalese and polispeak that as to be almost gibberish.

    Very rarely do laws anymore DO anything per se, they only alter the wording and provisions contained in other laws. Thus, even with the full text of a bill in one’s hand, you’re likely to need a dictionary and a handful of other legislation before you could even begin to make sense of it all. In other words, its more than possible that this WAS unintentional as whoever wrote this particular section of the bill probably had no idea what part of the federal code (s)he was changing.


    • What? I’ve worked on legislative drafting; there is no necessity that laws be long and badly drafted; none at all. A simple rule of thumb should be that if a Congressman can’t read and comprehend a law either 1) he shouldn’t vote for it or 2) he shouldn’t be in office. We have a right to be able to understand the laws that govern us, and we have the power to insist on it.

  2. Jack,
    Final note. Arguing that its unethical that Congress stop funding something like medication for children while continuing to spend money on less than worthwhile expenses is one thing, but arguing that they’re partially responsible for these children’s continued illness and death is something else. It may be moral and good to be charitable with ones resources, but surely you’re not arguing its an obligation? Otherwise, I’m unethical every time I decide NOT to donate all my disposable to charity and choose to invest it instead. Even the argument that this is different since its the government’s “job” doesn’t work since, without unlimited money and resources, it’s impossible to save everyone.

    What really bothers me about this line of reasoning is that its akin to the logic used in litigation cases where an individual or group is blamed for something which is largely an act of nature. Case in point, the man suing the Central Park Commission in Central Park for failing to adequately (in his mind) trim a tree limb which eventually came loose and killed his infant daughter. Deaths like this and those caused by senseless diseases are tragic and we owe it to ourselves to try and minimize them as much as possible, but it’s not somehow partially our fault when we fail.


    • But Neil, that wasn’t remotely the point of the post. If we decide we don’t want to discount drugs, fine; if we decide we do, fine: I think there are valid arguments either way. But to remove a drug benefit that saves kids simply because Congress voted to do it without reading the bill is outrageous. Your point, however, is valid and worth making.

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