It Is Time We And All Democrats Just Stand Our Ground And Bury The Republican Fear Machine. Put “THEM” Out Of THEIR Misery!
Reporting on the claim that a provision in the House health care bill that requires Medicare to cover voluntary end-of-life counseling sessions would "set up 'death panels' to determine care for patients who are close to dying," The New York Times portrayed the issue as a he said/she said debate, noting that health care reform supporters "deny" this charge and call the claim "a myth." But the Times did not note, as its own reporters and columnists have previously, that such claims are indeed a myth and that under the provision, end-of-life counseling would in fact be voluntary.
NY Times: Obama and supporters "deny that a health care plan would set up 'death panels' "
From the August 16 New York Times article:
The Obama administration and its Congressional supporters also continued to deny that a health care plan would set up "death panels" to determine care for patients who are close to dying.
Conservative opponents have accused the president of planning to set up panels that would decide which treatment an elderly or terminally ill patient might receive toward the end of life. But Ms. Sebelius, speaking on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," said that all the administration was thinking about was reimbursing doctors who would engage in bedside consultations with families whose relatives are near death and who are "conflicted about what to do next."
Unfortunately, she added, such a provision "is off the table" for now in the Senate Finance Committee because of the outcry.
"I think it's really horrific that some opponents of the health reform bill have used this painful, personal moment to try and scare people about what is in the bill," she said on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
Ms. Sebelius said that reimbursing such discussions "isn't about cost-cutting" by reducing expenses of prolonged treatment at the end of life but simply an effort to "empower family members" and "help families make good decisions."
"Often that doesn't happen," she said.
As President Obama did Saturday by recalling his grandmother's death last year, Ms. Sebelius spoke of her mother, who spent 10 weeks in three hospitals at the end of her life. Only relatively late in the process, Ms. Sebelius said, did the family have a consultation with a doctor about what could and could not be done for her mother.
"It was the most agonizing, most painful, most terrible time for not only me and my siblings, but for my dad," she said. "And what every family wants is good information and an ability to make a decision that suits their loved one the best way that the family is involved and engaged." Speaking on "This Week," Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, did not directly respond to a question about whether such panels were included in any of the proposals. But he spoke of "nameless bureaucrats" who would "ration health care," and that such a burden would fall most heavily on the elderly, who would also suffer because of proposed Medicare cuts. Summoning his own personal illustration, Senator Hatch recalled how his parents both died at 89 and did not have their health care rationed.
Debating with him, Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Democrat who switched from the Republican Party earlier this year, noted that Senator Hatch had sidestepped the question about "death panels."
"The fact of the matter is that it's a myth," he said. "It's simply not true. There are no death panels." Senator Specter invited his colleague to join Democrats in working out a bipartisan compromise, just as he had done with Senator Edward R. Kennedy of Massachusetts on the federal program that insures medical care for children. But Senator Hatch took the occasion to lament the number of children in that program who are being pushed under the umbrella of Medicaid.
The NY Times itself has repeatedly debunked "death panel" claims
NY Times: "[D]eath panels" claim is a "stubborn yet false rumor." In an August 13 articleheadlined, "False 'Death Panel' Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots," the Times reported:
The stubborn yet false rumor that President Obama's health care proposals would create government-sponsored "death panels" to decide which patients were worthy of living seemed to arise from nowhere in recent weeks.
Advanced even this week by Republican stalwarts including the party's last vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, and Charles E. Grassley, the veteran Iowa senator, the nature of the assertion nonetheless seemed reminiscent of the modern-day viral Internet campaigns that dogged Mr. Obama last year, falsely calling him a Muslim and questioning his nationality.
There is nothing in any of the legislative proposals that would call for the creation of death panels or any other governmental body that would cut off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure. But over the course of the past few months, early, stated fears from anti-abortion conservatives that Mr. Obama would pursue a pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia agenda, combined with twisted accounts of actual legislative proposals that would provide financing for optional consultations with doctors about hospice care and other ''end of life'' services, fed the rumor to the point where it overcame the debate.
NY Times reports "death panels" assertion "has no basis in any of the provisions of the legislative proposals." In an August 12 article, the Times reported that Obama "took issue with critics who he said had distorted the debate to stoke fears that health changes will include 'death panels that will basically pull the plug on Grandma.' That charge, which has been widely disseminated, has no basis in any of the provisions of the legislative proposals under consideration in Congress; it appears to be based on a provision that would require Medicare to pay for doctors to counsel patients on end-of-life care."
NY Times' Krugman: "Death panels" are "a complete fabrication." In an August 13 column, Timescolumnist Paul Krugman wrote:
Right now, the charge that's gaining the most traction is the claim that health care reform will create ''death panels'' (in Sarah Palin's words) that will shuffle the elderly and others off to an early grave. It's a complete fabrication, of course. The provision requiring that Medicare pay for voluntary end-of-life counseling was introduced by Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican -- yes, Republican -- of Georgia, who says that it's ''nuts'' to claim that it has anything to do with euthanasia.
NY Times' Brooks on "death panel" claim: "That's crazy." On NBC's Meet the Press, host David Gregory said to Times columnist David Brooks, "There is the rhetoric; there's also the question of what's true and what's false in what people are arguing about this notion of a death panel." Brooks responded, "Again, that's crazy. If the -- the crazies are attacking the plan because it'll cut off granny, and that -- that's simply not true. That simply is not going to happen." [Meet the Press, 8/9/09]
End-of-life care counseling would be voluntary
Provision calls for Medicare to cover voluntary end-of-life counseling sessions. Section 1233 of America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 -- the provision former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin cited -- amends the Social Security Act to ensure that advance care planning will be covered if a patient requests it from a qualified care provider [America's Affordable Health Choices Act, Sec. 1233]. According to an analysis of the bill produced by the three relevant House committees, the section "[p]rovides coverage for consultation between enrollees and practitioners to discuss orders for life-sustaining treatment. Instructs CMS to modify 'Medicare & You' handbook to incorporate information on end-of-life planning resources and to incorporate measures on advance care planning into the physician's quality reporting initiative." [waysandmeans.house.gov, accessed 8/13/09]
The role of rationality in our republic was again called into question this week, as the newest conservative lines of attack against health care reform embraced an equally new level of madness.
As you surely know by now, Sarah Palin loves Facebook, and last Friday, she wanted to make sure her friends knew the terrible secret hiding in H.R. 3200.
"The America I know and love," she wrote, "is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of [President] Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."
The idea that government bureaucrats will soon create "death panels" that will encourage the killing of Americans with disabilities as well as the elderly has now officially entered the conservative media's playbook. The notion is apparently rooted in an extremely selective reading of past writings by Ezekiel Emanuel, coupled with a total misreading of Section 1233 of the House health care legislation, which aims only to reimburse doctors who provide voluntary end-of-life counseling for those on Medicare.
As usual, media conservatives didn't let the facts get in the way of fear. Glenn Beckdefended Palin's "death panel" statement on Monday, as did Fox News' Andrew Napolitano. That same day, Rush Limbaugh cited an op-ed that, while raising concerns about the end-of-life consultations, called euthanasia talk "rubbish." Then he ignored that statement and proceeded to talk about euthanasia.
The narratives continued unabated and were repeatedly given attention by Fox's Brian Kilmeade. (Fox & Friends, it turns out, is a bad place to go for accurate analysis of health care reform.) Beck dismissed the unconvinced, warning that they would "laugh all the way to the death panels," and Ann Coulter said that Emanuel was on her "death list." Beck and Limbaugh also revisited the Nazi theme of the previous week, equating the principles and tactics of the Third Reich to those being employed by congressional Democrats and the media. When the Senate Finance Committee indicated that the end-of-life counseling provision would be removed from its version of the legislation, The Fox Nation impartially reported the news by declaring victory.
By the way, in case you had any doubt about how hard the conservative media are working to defeat health care reform (and I know you did), just take a look at this study Media Matters for America conducted. Over a two-day period (August 10 and 11), we tallied up the guests on Fox News who discussed health care. The result: 10 supported progressive reforms, and 63 opposed them. As always, fair and balanced.
So what's the good news?
Despite it all, there was actually a host of accurate coverage concerning health care reform this week -- a reminder of just how shockingly irresponsible most conservative media outlets are. ABC's Kate Snow dismissed the end-of-life controversy as misinformation started by Betsy McCaughey, and Joe Scarborough put the smear out to pasture as well. The "death panel" assertion was further debunked by CNN's John Roberts, MSNBC's Dr. Nancy Snyderman, David Shuster, and Willie Geist, NBC's Anne Thompson, and ABC's chief medical editor, Dr. Tim Johnson.
CBS and NBC also ran stories illustrating the urgent need for health care reform, and CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta addressed the right-wing "rationing" canard, explaining how rationing occurs all the time under our current system. There was even pushback against the claim that Democrats were advocating a "Canadian-style" system.
Sadly, there was also some backsliding. USA Today falsely claimed that the "estimated cost of a health care overhaul" would be $1 trillion, and one CNN report cited Heritage Foundation research while ignoring estimates from the CBO. Most telling was an ABC piece that contradicted the network's own reporting and portrayed the end-of-life issue as still being an open question. It was a classic example of the mainstream media's desire to avoid criticism by presenting both sides of a story -- even when one side doesn't make any sense. Let's hope this Sunday's Meet the Press won't follow suit (David Gregory has promised it won't).
Don't show me the money!
There was an encouraging development in the ongoing campaign to get hate off our public airwaves. After a host of progressive groups, among them Media Matters and ColorOfChange.org, publicized Beck's recent rant accusing Obama of racism, multiple companies announced that they would no longer advertise on his program -- among them:ConAgra, Roche, Sanofi-Aventis, Radio Shack, GEICO, Travelocity, and Sargento. Reflecting on the development, The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart said that it might "pump the brakes on some of these wild statements." We can only hope.
Anti-democratic Democrats continue hosting public forums
Town hall protests continued this week, all of which were given extensive coverage by Fox News and other conservative outlets (respectful meetings were ignored). Andrew Breitbartattempted to blame any past or future violence on Democrats and their thuggish union allies, while Fox's Megyn Kelly allowed protester Mike Sola to claim that Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer had sent goons to his house to intimidate his family. No, there simply aren't any provocations coming from the right these days. "[W]e need to be very, very careful," Beckwarned his audience while appealing for calm. "Somebody's going to do something stupid, and it will change the republic overnight." Nor does Lou Dobbs want anyone to misinterpret his assessment of Howard Dean ("[H]e's a bloodsucking leftist -- I mean, you gotta put a stake through his heart to stop this guy"). When a guest criticized him for calling Dean a "bloodsucking liberal," Dobbs defended himself. "I called him a bloodsucking leftist," he repeated. And just for good measure, Beck and Bill O'Reilly derided an 11-year-old girl's question at Obama's town hall in New Hampshire. Just a normal day at the right-wing office.
Conservatives, seeking to exploit the town halls to full effect, also aimed to portray Democrats as being anti-democratic. In a Monday op-ed, Pelosi and Hoyer made a simple declaration: "Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American." It seemed clear enough -- if you attend a town hall, you shouldn't shout people down. But that's not how the right -- as well as the mainstream media -- spun it. The line was twisted, and both representatives were attacked for calling the protesters "un-American." Dobbs chastised their "hypocrisy." Kilmeade repeated the distortion, as did Politico and Fox's Gretchen Carlson and Steve Doocy. Even NBC's Chuck Todd and NPR's Diane Rehm got into the mix. Sean Hannity, of course, wasn't to be topped, saying that "we've had hardworking Americans called Nazis and brownshirts and un-American by Nancy Pelosi." It seemed as though the CNN's Errol Louis and MSNBC's Contessa Brewer were the only ones who took the time to read the editorial before commenting on it.
Barack Obama is just like Richard Nixon
How, you ask? Why, they both have enemies lists, of course! That's how Beck and Dobbsdescribed the White House's request that supporters pass along emails containing erroneous smears about health care reform. Indeed, Rush nailed the administration's true intent: It's a "snitch website" he declared. It's Obama's "own exclusive, private domestic spying program" -- forget that whole FISA thing. In order to ensure the program's secrecy, the president chose to publicly address the attack during a town hall meeting. Then he asked for everyone's Social Security number and something embarrassing he could blackmail them with.
Down the rabbit hole
At a few points this week, words were exchanged that simply don't fit the rubric of normal conservative misinformation. Specifically: Michael Savage again warned the public of the "internment camps" that Obama is now readying for his political opponents; Hannity deridedthe "sick, psychotic, twisted individuals in their underwear in a basement" who monitor Fox and right-wing talk radio (he means us!); Limbaugh once again dismissed a report on the growing threat of right-wing militia violence (because there were no consequences the last time that was done); and Beck explained that health care was not a God-given right for all Americans -- not unless Jesus himself is conducting the physicals.
But in the end, it was Beck who truly broke new ground when he said something that was so crazy that even his panel of yes-men were left speechless. He's really hitting his stride.
August 14, 2009 2:24 pm ET — 81 Comments
Claiming that it's "[n]o wonder so many seniors rebel" at President Obama's health care proposals, aWall Street Journal editorial misrepresented a New York Times interview of Obama to claim that Obama seems to believes that end-of-life "medical issues are all justifiably political questions that government or some panel of philosopher kings can and should decide." In fact, in the interview the Journal cited, Obama made clear that an advisory panel that would issue guidance on end-of-life issues would "not [be] determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance."
Journal misrepresents Obama NY Times interview
Citing Times interview, Journal claimed that Obama "seems to believe" "government or some panel of philosopher kings can and should" make end-of-life decisions. The editorial added: "No wonder so many seniors rebel at such judgments that they know they could do little to influence, much less change." From the Journal editorial headlined, "Obama's Senior Moment":
From the point of view of politicians with a limited budget, is it worth spending a lot on, say, a patient with late-stage cancer where the odds of remission are long? Or should they spend to improve quality, not length, of life? Or pay for a hip or knee replacement for seniors, when palliative care might cost less? And who decides?
Before he got defensive, Mr. Obama was open about this political calculation. He often invokes the experience of his own grandmother, musing whether it was wise for her to receive a hip replacement after a terminal cancer diagnosis. In an April interview with the New York Times, he wondered whether this represented a "sustainable model" for society. He seems to believe these medical issues are all justifiably political questions that government or some panel of philosopher kings can and should decide. No wonder so many seniors rebel at such judgments that they know they could do little to influence, much less change. [Wall Street Journal, 8/14/09]
In fact, in the Times interview, Obama made clear an advisory panel is "not determinative, but ... has to be able to give you some guidance." From the Times interview:
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know how much that hip replacement [that Obama's grandmother received shortly before her death] cost. I would have paid out of pocket for that hip replacement just because she's my grandmother. Whether, sort of in the aggregate, society making those decisions to give my grandmother, or everybody else's aging grandparents or parents, a hip replacement when they're terminally ill is a sustainable model, is a very difficult question. If somebody told me that my grandmother couldn't have a hip replacement and she had to lie there in misery in the waning days of her life -- that would be pretty upsetting.
And it's going to be hard for people who don't have the option of paying for it.
THE PRESIDENT: So that's where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that's also a huge driver of cost, right?
I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.
So how do you -- how do we deal with it?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that's part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It's not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that's part of what I suspect you'll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now. [The New York Times Magazine, 4/28/09]
Fox News previously misrepresented Obama's Times interview. Citing the same New York Timesinterview on Fox News, Special Report host Bret Baier and correspondent Shannon Bream claimed that Obama's "own words may have contributed to the atmosphere of fear" surrounding "talk about possible government mandates in so-called end-of-life issues" or "what critics call 'death panels.' " [Fox News'Special Report, 8/12/09]
Journal acknowledged that rationing currently exists but asserted that "in the end no one is denied actual care"
From the editorial:
Yes, the U.S. "rations" by ability to pay (though in the end no one is denied actual care). This is true of every good or service in a free economy and a world of finite resources but infinite wants. Yet no one would say we "ration" houses or gasoline because those goods are allocated by prices. The problem is that governments ration through brute force -- either explicitly restricting the use of medicine or lowering payments below market rates. Both methods lead to waiting lines, lower quality, or less innovation -- and usually all three.
However, there are accounts of people not being able to receive care if they don't have cash
In congressional testimony, woman said hospital told her "unless your brother brings in cash, he is not going to get the procedure without insurance." Attorney Peggy Raddatz stated in congressional testimony that her brother Otto was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and, after several rounds of chemotherapy, was scheduled for a stem cell transplant. In the midst of the preparation for this procedure, his insurance company canceled his insurance. Raddatz testified that when she called the hospital to see if she could still schedule the procedure for her brother, she was told: "[U]nless your brother brings in cash, he is not going to get the procedure without insurance." From Raddatz' testimony:
My brother was told he was canceled during what they called a "routine review" during which they claimed to discover a "material failure to disclose". Apparently in 2000 his doctor had done a CT scan which showed an aneurysm and gall stones. My brother was never told of either one of these conditions nor was he ever treated for them and he never reported any symptoms for them either.
After months of preparation, the stem cell transplant could not be scheduled. My brother's hope for being a cancer survivor were dashed. His prognosis was only a matter of months without the procedure.
When I called the hospital to see if I could schedule the stem cell transplant for him I was callously told "unless your brother brings in cash, he is not going to get the procedure without insurance."
After two appeals by the Illinois Attorney General's Office, Fortis Insurance Company overturned their original decision to rescind my brother's coverage and he was reinstated without any lapse.
Without the help of the office of the Illinois Attorney General, this would not have been possible. [Prepared testimony of Peggy Raddatz before the House Energy & Commerce Committee, 6/16/09]
Congressional testimony: "The hospital wanted a $30,000 deposit." Another person, Robin Beaton, testified that her breast cancer surgery was delayed by several months after her insurance company revoked its pre-clearance for her surgery and announced an investigation of her medical history that it said would last for months. Beaton testified that the hospital demanded a "$30,000 deposit" to schedule the surgery immediately, which Beaton was unable to afford. Beaton testified that her surgery was delayed several months until her insurance was reinstated, and due to the delay, her tumor had grown from two centimeters to seven centimeters and she was forced to have a double mastectomy and have all her lymph nodes removed. From Beaton's testimony:
In June 2008 I was diagnosed with invasive HER-2 genetic breast cancer, this is a very aggressive form of breast cancer. In the beginning, I was told I needed immediate surgery. The doctor told me you have a lumpectomy if the tumor is small enough. In the beginning the doctor said the tumor was 2 centimeters.
When the surgeons scheduled my surgery I was pre-certified for two days hospitalization and surgery. The Friday before the Monday I was scheduled to have my surgery Blue Cross red flagged my chart due to dermatologist chart. The dermatologist called Blue Cross directly to report that I only had acne (pimples) and to please not hold up my cancer surgery. Blue Cross called me on the Friday before I was to have cancer surgery on Monday and informed me that they were launching a 5 year medical investigation into my medical history and this would take approximately 3 months.
I was frantic. I was totally alone as my family lives in Jacksonville Florida. The hospital wanted a $30,000 deposit, and I knew I could not pay this or for the surgery myself. I had no idea what to do or where to turn. I met a lady who told me you need to call your congressman Joe Barton for help.
I began going everywhere looking for help, county hospitals, Foundations, agencies. Everywhere I went I was placed on a waiting list. When you have aggressive invasive cancer you have no time to wait as the cancer grows everyday. I went back to the county hospital where they lost my medical records three times. The process was unending searching for help for cancer. I did everything to get help. Everywhere you go takes time. No help was found until Joe Barton and his staff, after working a very long time, got Blue Cross to reinstate my insurance after being diagnosed with aggressive invasive breast cancer in June 2008. I was then placed back on the surgeons list to receive my cancer surgery. I finally was operated on October 2, 2008. My tumor grew from 2 centimeters all the way to 7 centimeters. Also, I had to have both breasts removed and all my lymph nodes due to waiting from June to October for treatment.
Delaying treatment for cancer only worsens the condition, costing more to treat and treatment much more intensive. Also the outcome is not as good. [Prepared testimony of Robin Beaton before the House Energy & Commerce Committee, 6/16/09]
It Is Time We And All Democrats Just Stand Our Ground And Bury The Republican Fear Machine. Put “THEM” Out Of THEIR Misery!
It Is Time We And All Democrats Just Stand Our Ground And Bury The Republican Fear Machine. Put “THEM” Out Of THEIR Misery!