Get ready to hear talk show hosts and others charge the Obama administration with ushering in “death panels.” You betchya:
When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over “death panels,” Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1.
Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.
Although this is being painted by some as “death panels” in fact there are MANY Americans who face these issues and have for some years. And many people in many families (including mine) who have members who have insisted that if they are at a point where aggressive life-sustaining treatment is an option they do not want it if they are at a certain point in their illness where they feel the life-sustaining treatment keeps them physically alive with no hope, movement, and/or awareness. MORE:
Congressional supporters of the new policy, though pleased, have kept quiet. They fear provoking another furor like the one in 2009 when Republicans seized on the idea of end-of-life counseling to argue that the Democrats’ bill would allow the government to cut off care for the critically ill.
The final version of the health care legislation, signed into law by President Obama in March, authorized Medicare coverage of yearly physical examinations, or wellness visits. The new rule says Medicare will cover “voluntary advance care planning,” to discuss end-of-life treatment, as part of the annual visit.
Under the rule, doctors can provide information to patients on how to prepare an “advance directive,” stating how aggressively they wish to be treated if they are so sick that they cannot make health care decisions for themselves.
While the new law does not mention advance care planning, the Obama administration has been able to achieve its policy goal through the regulation-writing process, a strategy that could become more prevalent in the next two years as the president deals with a strengthened Republican opposition in Congress.
In this case, the administration said research had shown the value of end-of-life planning.
Get ready to start hearing about an almost dictatorial federal government although the fact is that the Bush administration and others have used executive powers over the years — powers allowed under the constitution.
But brace yourself for the rhetoric on upcoming talk shows and on the Internet posts and discussions. Doctors’ advice on options will be translated into inaccurate characterizations of cold-hearted doctors imposing their preferences, trying to trick patients into signing their own death sentences, and death panels sitting around looking at names doing a thumbs up and thumbs down. The real thumbs down should be on the overheated politic polemics that surrounds this and most issues. But without it, how could radio and TV get ratings and how could publications and websites get readers?
A doctor sometime will say “take a deep breath” and this is what should be done on this issue.
But don’t hold your breath expecting some folks to do so.
To follow other views on this issue (a lot different than the one presented in this post) GO HERE.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.