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Posted by on Aug 1, 2009 in At TMV, Economy, Health, Media, Politics, Society | 11 comments

How “Kill Granny” Slogans Pollute Health Reform Talks

On a recent Thursday company bus ride taking a group of my fellow seniors to shop at local grocery stores, Rosa announced how shamed she was because President Obama was born in Kenya and wanted to kill the elderly to save medical costs.

“What gives you that idea?” I asked.

“It’s true,” Rosa said. “It’s all over TV and radio. My neighbors John and Mary said the same thing. I’m scared out of my wits where our country is headed.”

“They’re full of crap,” I said.

“Oh, no,” Rosa insisted. “They showed a Congresswoman testifying Medicare will add a new provision making it mandatory to discuss how we want to die. My God, Jerry, they want to kill us. That’s what the Congresswoman said.” A discreet chap, I nixed the idea of getting involved in the birther nonsense.

Rosa is one of thousands of seniors contacting AARP and their congressmen who fear a tiny provision in one of the healthcare insurance reform bills that will lead to end-of-life rationing. The “Kill Granny” threat is echoed by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) who said they object to the idea because it “may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia.”

Actually, the proposal in question is to pay physicians who counsel elderly or terminally ill patients about what medical interventions they would prefer near the end of life and how to prepare instructions such as living wills. Under the plan, Medicare would reimburse doctors for one session every five years to confer with a patient about his or her wishes and how to ensure those preferences are followed. The counseling sessions would be voluntary.

The confusion arises because, as The Washington Post notes today:

“On right-leaning radio programs, religious e-mail lists and Internet blogs, the proposal has been described as “guiding you in how to die,” “an ORDER from the Government to end your life,” promoting “death care” and, in the words of antiabortion leader Randall Terry, an attempt to “kill Granny.”

At a town hall forum with AARP members last week, Obama said the intent of the physicians’ consultations was to encourage the elderly to draw up “living wills” as he and First Lady Michelle Obama have done. He also noted a letter received from an elderly person who lambasted creeping socialism into the healthcare system but at the same time admonished the president not to take away her Medicare benefits.

Rosa, John and Mary and myself reside in a senior complex. The central gathering for all 440 tenants is the 10 a.m. Friday coffee and donut meeting and greeting social. I took a sample of about 30 residents yesterday. Their opinions on the healthcare legislation essentially was divided in thirds.

One-third were well-informed but cautious and concerned about losing certain benefits. Another third fell into Rosa’s line of thinking. The rest of them told me to mind my own damn business.

According to WaPo, the genesis of the current controversy on talk radio

began when Betsy McCaughey, who helped defeat President Bill Clinton’s health-care overhaul 16 years ago, told former senator Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) that mandatory counseling sessions with Medicare beneficiaries would “tell them how to end their life sooner” and would teach the elderly how to “decline nutrition . . . and cut your life short.”

The average cost of care for a chronically ill Medicare patient in the final six months of life is $46,400, according to Dartmouth University data.

Reports The Post:

In the past two weeks, AARP has fielded a few thousand calls from people who mistakenly think the legislation would require every Medicare recipient to “choose how they want to die,” said James Dau, a spokesman for the organization.

Though he is “willing to give the benefit of the doubt” to some who may be confused, Dau complained that the effort to “intentionally distort” the proposal “is just plain cruel to anyone who is forced to make one of these difficult decisions at the end of life.”

Next time I see Rosa I’ll pass this information along. I have this sinking feeling it won’t change hers — or others like hers — opinion.