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Racial Entitlements and the Healthcare Bill

by  Joe R. Hicks

March 16, 2010 | 1:52 pm

Now being pushed through the House by Speaker Nancy Pelosi is President Obama’s healthcare bill.  It’s a 1,018-page-long document that has all sorts of interesting little gems, or toad stools, depending on one’s perspective. 

The massive plan is something that few members of Congress have actually read completely.  Even Madam Speaker tells us “… We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy.”  Excuse me, but shouldn’t we know what the bill entails, in fairly concise terms, before this thing becomes law?

The public remains skeptical of Obama’s plan, even though he’s given more than fifty speeches about it, the mainstream media has been supportive and sympathetic, and Democratic Party leadership has had more than a year to fully explain why the legislation is something that’s good for the nation’s people.  Still, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, more than 81 percent of Americans polled believe that, if passed, the bill would cost far more than being claimed by the President and his political allies.

A quick look at the history of government-funded entitlements, like Medicare and Medicaid, shows why there are good reasons for this perception. The House Ways and Means Committee is notorious for inaccurate predictions of government programs’ eventual costs. It estimated that Medicare would cost the taxpayers about $12 billion by 1990 – the public’s tab that year was … $107 billion.  The same is true for Medicaid.  Congress estimated that it would cost $1 billion in 1992 … the real cost was $17 billion.

As we know from past history, there is always room for all sorts of mischief inside a document as massive and complex as this healthcare bill has become, after a year of political maneuvering and back-room dealings. 

And while there plenty to argue over regarding this bill – something new caught my eye. 

There it was, beginning on page 879.  This healthcare bill, as currently constructed, literally enshrines racial preferences.  The bill specifies that the Secretary of Health and Human Services, “In awarding grants or contracts under this section … shall give preferences to entities that have a demonstrated record of … training individuals who are from

underrepresented backgrounds

.”

The bill doesn’t say what would qualify as a “demonstrated record.” If the bill passes you can expect that medical schools and other training institutions will do whatever they think they can get away with to train as many individuals as they can from “

underrepresented backgrounds

.”

Why would they do this?  Because the more “underrepresented” minorities they train the better their “demonstrated record” will be.  This will help insure they’ll be on the fast track for government contracts and grants.

If you are Jewish, poor and white, or Asian, don’t expect to receive any advantage under this plan.  The word “underrepresented” is inserted into the bill’s language to make it clear that the preferences are aimed at advantaging blacks and Latinos.

What’s the rationale behind this?  Due to the disproportionately poorer health among poor blacks and Hispanics, the assumption is that the cause is somehow healthcare discrimination.  But alleging racism is always the default position among those with a well-known ideological axe to grind, which blinds them to other contributing factors like bad eating habits, heredity, and levels of fitness, among others.

To be sure, institutionalized racial preferences at nursing, dental and medical schools are nothing new.  What this healthcare bill language does—that is new – is to insure that race, sex and ethnic quotes will be institutionalized in perpetuity.

In 2003, now-retired U.S. Supreme Court associate justice Sandra Day O’Conner wrote in her opinion regarding the University of Michigan affirmative action case that she believed race-conscious college admissions policies would be unnecessary 25 years down the road.

Receiving a preference simply because of skin color is something many believe was outlawed under the 1964 Civil Rights Act that made it unlawful to discriminate against any individual because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

To be sure, outstanding and highly-qualified black and Latino students are studying at the nation’s best medical training schools today.  However, race preferences have allowed others who are less-than-qualified into these same schools.  This has led to high drop-out rates and the failure to pass critical licensing exams at rates that are far higher than their classmates.

Language about racial preferences has alarmed members of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a California State advisor to this Commission.

The Commissioners recently sent a letter to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (among other key House and Senate members).  They said that “Racial preferences in the Senate Healthcare Bill, in addition to being unconstitutional, will not improve health care outcomes for minority patients.” 

Some would argue that life is a game of winners and losers.  This may be true, however I don’t believe that legislation described as “reform” should, in part, be selecting the people who win or lose based on skin color or surname.

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