August 29, 2009

DAVID HARSANYI: Forget Death Panels, let’s talk Circumcision Panels.

Here’s the problem: Why is the CDC launching campaigns to “universally” promote a medical procedure? If you’re an adult (and nuts) or a parent, no one stands in your way of having a bris. Today 79 percent of men are circumcised already, and even if 100 percent were, the effect on the collective health of the nation would be negligible. If this is the standard, where does it stop?

And what would a proactive CDC mean if government operated health insurance? No, I don’t believe Washington would deploy a phalanx of grinning, twisted doctors to perform coerced circumcisions. But when the CDC dispenses medical advice of the “universal” brand, it’s difficult to accept that a government-run public insurance outfit wouldn’t heed advice and act accordingly.

What if the CDC, through meticulous study, were to realize that circumcision is an entirely worthless procedure? Why would “we” waste $400 a pop? Would the CDC campaign to “universally remove” the operation from hospitals? Today, incidentally, government-run Medicaid doesn’t pay for the procedure in 16 states. Most private insurers, on the other hand, do.

Though dismissed by public-option proponents, this is an example of how government persuasion can influence our decisions—first by nudging and then, inevitably, by rationing.


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