I have resisted wading into the health care debate because I feel that the crazies out there are not capable of honest discussion, but I cannot stand by and let lies sabotage the very people who need insurance the most. I know that it is a slippery slope to talk about (Janet Hook writes on August 6.2009 in the LA Times that "the challenge for Democrats is particularly tough because the healthcare system is little understood by most people)," but an email from my husband’s niece Lisa was the catalyst for this blog.
Lisa knows that I worked to get Obama elected and sent one of the viral emails circulating around about Obama, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. Along with this rant full of lies about Obama and socialism, etc., Lisa writes that she is a member of her local tea baggers and a "right-wing extremist" (her quotes) and speaks for "the rest of America." She challenges me with:
You should also keep close tabs on the new health care proposal; on page 425 of this bill, the Federal Government will require everyone who is on Social Security to undergo a mandatory counseling session every 5 years with the objective being that they will explain to them just how to end their own life earlier. What a way to protect the citizens of OUR country.
I know her to be a great mom, a devout Christian and very smart. She is no crazy. This is for Lisa and all the other Americans that really want the truth.
•Page 425 contains the effort by a Republican doctor and a Democrat to
have Medicare pay for Republican 1990 and 2003 legislation from
both President Bushes encouraging dialogue about end of life
•Page 425 will not push suicide or mandate euthanasia
•There is no evidence that the consultation is mandatory whatsoever.
•There is no "death panel, Sarah!
I am writing this blog in an attempt to address some of the outright lies. I feel that many of us are confused and haven’t taken the time to do our research. I know that Lisa is a mother of two busy little boys and must feel strongly about this issue if she took the time to write me. I have slowly been amassing some facts and information about health care reform. I will reference the AARP, factchecker.org, Sojourners, and the United Methodist Church Board of Church and Society from time to time in this blog.
In the last few days the AARP and several churches have been in the forefront combating the lies that are circulating on the net and in the right-wing media. I have not quoted facts from this latest link, but I would encourage progressive readers to go whitehouse.gov as well at http://www.whitehouse.gov/... With all the lies and distortions out there, each and every one of us must do the research.
The AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates, just issued this statement today:
We won’t stand idle when opponents of health care reform attempt to scare or mislead the American people—and older Americans in particular—about what fixing the system really means," said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond. "The truth is we need to fix health care, whether it’s ensuring affordable coverage for Americans age 50 to 64 or improving benefits for people in Medicare. It’s time for the public to get the real facts."
One of the biggest scary lies out there is the one that states that health care reform will give the government power over life and death decisions for everyone. Religious leaders and progressive denominations have protested this outrageous lie and distortion of HR3200 page 425. Conservative critics say the legislation could limit end-of-life care and even encourage euthanasia. Moreover, some assert, it would require people to draw up plans saying how they want to die.
This frightening piece of misinformation surfaced when a former Republican lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey from New York appeared on Fred Thompson’s show. Citing page 425 of the bill, McCaughey claimed that
"the Congress would make it (euthanasia) mandatory ... that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition, how to decline being hydrated, how to go into hospice care ... all to do what’s in society’s best interest ... and cut your life short." Thompson chuckled at this and said, "I’ve seen bits and parts of [the bill], Betsy, but I didn’t know that." He hasn’t seen that bit, of course, because it doesn’t exist.
From there it went viral.
On July 24, AARP reacted in this press release:
Ms. McCaughey’s criticism misinterprets legislation that would actually help empower individuals and doctors to make their own choices on end-of-life care.
This measure would allow Medicare to pay doctors for taking the time to talk with individuals about difficult end-of-life care decisions. It would help provide people with better information on the positives and negatives—both physical and financial—that different treatments can mean for them and their families.
Facing a terminal disease or debilitating accident, some people will choose to take every possible life-saving measure in the hopes that treatment or even a cure will allow them more time with their families. Others will decide that additional treatment would impose too great a burden—emotional, physical and otherwise—on themselves and their families, declining extraordinary measures and instead choosing care to manage their discomfort. Either way, it should be their choice.
This measure would not only help people make the best decisions for themselves, but also better ensure that their wishes are followed.
Just such legislation was passed under both of the Bushes, but we didn’t hear any out cry about the fact that "in 1990 Congress passed, and President George H. W. Bush signed, the Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA). That act "encourages everyone to decide now about the types and extent of medical care they want to accept or refuse if they become unable to make those decisions due to illness. Then in 2003, under the Republican administration of George W. Bush, "the Agency for Health care Research & Quality issued a 20-page report outlining a five-part process for patients to discuss end-of-life care with their physicians."
These are issues that terminal patient have to face. Sadly I have been witness to both my parent's passings and have been in the spot to make emotionally agonizing decisions without living wills or directivesfor them. I will never know what my mother really wanted, but I can guess that it wouldn't be a feeding tube from her comments. My mother-in-law's recent death from pancreatic cancer was horrible, but at least she was able to have a say in the way that she died and what was to be done and what was not. I know of families that have been torn apart over such issues. The loss of a loved one is awful enough without this.
I would recommend everyone read Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' informative works on Death and Dying and see the wisdom in having a living will and directives. This page references to merely payment for some counsel on this issue by Medicare and is totally up to the individual.
It is not some mandatory every five years we are going to force you to choose life support or not. The difference here is that under the new health care guidelines Medicare will pay for it! So Medicare will pay only once in a five years, if you want to talk about such things as a living will, end of life choices, and hospice or not.
There is no evidence that the consultation is mandatory whatsoever. I repeat...it is not mandatory. What it requires is for Medicare to cover counseling sessions (or more likely extended doctor visits to discuss such things) for seniors who want to consider their end-of-life choices – including whether they want to refuse or, conversely, require certain types of care.
This bill was actually introduced by a Republican Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., a physician, and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Or. This was an effort to introduce a bipartisan, standalone bill that would permit Medicare to pay for the five-part process that the Republican administration of George W. Bush started in 2003 under "the Agency for Health care Research & Quality" to discuss end-of-life care with their physicians."
The claim that the bill would "push suicide" is a falsehood. President Obama stated recently at an AARP forum that "The intent here is to simply make sure that you’ve got more information, and that Medicare will pay for it."
These lies are so atrocious that one of AARP’s latest print ads reads: "Special interest groups are trying to block progress on health care reform using myths and scare tactics. Like the myth that health care reform will give the government the power to make life-and-death decisions for everyone. That’s simply false. The fact is, no one, including the government or your insurance company, will be given power to make life-and-death decisions for anyone regardless of their age. Those decisions will be made by you, your doctor and your family."
May I repeat that the AARP, the lobby for older Americans, says, "The rumors out there are flat-out lies." To view the ads or to get more information about AARP’s Health Action Now campaign, please visit www.healthactionnow.org
This is for all the Sarah fans out there...conservative Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) called Palin, "Nuts. He goes on to say, I have no idea. I understand -- and you have to check this out -- I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin's web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You're putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don't know how that got so mixed up. Isakson (then) fully CLARIFIES that the end of life directive is about a living will. Something both of his parents have, decisions they made for end of life. Many Americans have these wills and the Republican Party and all these insurance operatives have distorted and hi-jacked this phrasing for "killing seniors.""
I will end with some food for thought from Jim Wallis, who is a bestselling author, public theologian, speaker, preacher, and international commentator on religion and public life, faith and politics. He wrote this after seeing the recent protests at town halls.
Health-care reform that will provide quality, affordable health care for all Americans is essential. It is a moral imperative that in a nation as prosperous as ours, no American should go without health care, especially the poorest and most vulnerable among us. Reasonable people may differ on how best to accomplish this goal, and I welcome the rigorous policy debate currently under way in the House and Senate. But in the final analysis, it should be a moral priority for all of us.
I urge you to write your member of Congress, attend local town meetings in your communities, and respectfully but strongly make these points. It is our moral obligation as people of faith.
I feel, as a progressive, it is my moral obligation to tell the truth and fight for health-care reform. I just called my representative. Thank you, Lisa.