Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Real Death Panels

Back from Ireland to find health care reform in trouble publicly due mostly to misinformation. According to an NBC poll, majorities of Americans mistakenly believe that the proposals on the table would
  • provide health care to illegal aliens (heaven forbid)
  • lead to a government takeover of the health system
  • spend taxpayer dollars on abortion (we wouldn't want health care reform to enable women full access to their constitutional rights)
The poll also finds that
Forty-five percent think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly.
Apparently, this last bit of pernicious nonsense comes about because the coverage of so-called "death panels," which are actually counseling aimed at helping the dying accept the ending of life. Turns out that they do some good, too.

But perhaps the most willfully dishonest assertion is that health care reform would lead to a government takeover of the health system. Instead, reform is exactly what it implies: For better or worse, a reform of the way that access to health care is currently provided. In other words, health care will continue to be provided through a combination of insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.

As I wrote earlier, health care reform means such common sense changes as
  • coverage of preventive care such as mammograms and colonoscopies
  • the end of denial of coverage because of pre-existing conditions or medical history
  • the end to dropping or reducing coverage of an existing medical condition
  • prevention of arbitrary caps to lifetime or annual coverage, essential to preventing health care-related bankruptcies
  • an option to purchase health care from the government, to so-called public option essentially to controlling costs and ensuring that minimal standards are meant
  • government negotiation of purchases from pharmaceutical companies, essential to controlling drug costs (You wouldn't believe how much cheaper even over-the-counter drugs are in Ireland, and this in a country that is an expensive place to live.)
Worried about bureaucracies issuing end-of-life decisions? A friend's letter to his Congressman:
This is not a game. I am increasingly distressed to see that, as far as I can tell, the Republicans in Congress are treating the issue of health care reform as an opportunity to score points against the Democrats in general and the president in particular. This issue is not a game between Republican and Democratic politicians. If it continues to be treated as a game, then no matter which party wins, the American people will lose.

I support health care reform that includes a public option. If you oppose a public option, please explain to me as my representative in the House why I should trust insurance companies more than the government in which you serve.

Recently, the brother of a friend was diagnosed with germ-cell cancer which is highly treatable 90% of the time. Unfortunately, my friend's brother belongs to the other 10%. He works for a successful telecommunications firm. He has "good" health insurance. His insurance company refused to cover the stage II trial drug protocol that is his only viable chance for a cure even though it costs no more than the conventional therapy they were willing to cover and even though the insurance company's doctor recommended they grant a waiver and cover his experimental treatment. Now, tell me why I should trust the insurance companies.

Please, sir, have the courage to do the right thing. The status quo in health care is unacceptable. The American people have been waiting for reform since Harry Truman was president. Please do not succumb to the partisan pressure to play politics with the very lives of the people you represent.
More about insurance company death panels here and here...

Health care: Two countries, two stories...

Save Charity Hospital, NOLA's last, best hope for indigent and emergency care...

Goin' back to Avalon, where I have a pretty mama all the time...


Annette said...

Also in the poll, but what they don't really talk about is the fact, when they really explain the Public Option and what reform really means.. People support it. But far be it from the media to tell people the truth and set the record straight.. that doesn't sell papers or make for good TeeVee viewing.

sussah said...

Welcome back! I think when people hear "hospice" this is somehow associated with "euthanasia", Dr. Kevorkian, and worse, government regulated mandatory time-to-die. If President Obama was advocating assisted suicide, even I would be protesting. But rousing up people's worst fear when it's not warranted has been very divisive and mean-spirited, and Sarah Palin et al should be ashamed of themselves. sp, n.o.

Kathy said...

Glad to see you made it home safe and sound.

Re: "Health care reform is in trouble publicly due mostly to misinformation."

It's the only tool Republicans have at their disposal if they hope to defeat reform. They can't be honest because then people would question why they're fighting against something that would benefit Americans and our economy.

K. said...

It's great to be back! Today is absolutely splendid -- the first clear blue sky I've seen in months!

If the Republicans fought reform on its merits, they'd run out of rationale in about five minutes.

Molly The Dog said...

The Health Care reform bill never should have been open to public opinion. It's difficult to understand and has fueled the very vocal and dangerous minority to compare Obama to Hitler. I've been a longtime supporter of Obama but I think he has lost control of this.

And where are the democrats that we elected to congress? Why weren't they prepared for the backlash of health insurance companies?

It would be great if the baby-boomers who fought against the Vietnam War and are now the aging population needing more and more healthcare, would put as much energy into securing healthcare reform as they did protesting the war.

T. Clear said...

Molly, you make a great point in your last paragraph. Have we forgotten the power of our protests? I say we start a movement....