Tag Archives: Medicare

Sarah Palin and Jim DeMint Should Take Lessons from Ronald Reagan

Judging from conservative rhetoric, the debate over health-care reform is in truth a fight over the future of American democracy and capitalism. Stopping the health-care bill is being described as an essential step toward restoring America to its rightful owners and rightful course.

“Friends, this is a critical battle for the heart and soul of America, and for freedom itself,” Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina told a rally in Washington over the weekend. “Freedom fighters are outnumbered in Congress, but not in America. If you continue to stand up and speak out, we will save freedom in America.”

Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, made a more personal contribution to the hysteria. Health care reform would not merely threaten the foundations of America, she warned, it would lead to government-mandated abandonment of our loved ones and family.

“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of 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,” Palin wrote on her Facebook page. “Such a system is downright evil.”

While that’s some pretty impressive demagoguery, Palin, DeMint and others are mere pikers compared to the master of the genre. To appreciate true genius in explaining how government health care will destroy all that is good and Godly about this country, you can’t do better than the Great Communicator himself, Ronald Reagan.

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Palin Once Favored End-Of-Life Counseling

Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Portland, Oregon's 3rd District, sponsored the end-of-life counseling amendment characterized by conservative politicians as the formation of 'death panels' to euthanize seniors.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Portland, Oregon's 3rd District, sponsored the end-of-life counseling amendment characterized by conservative politicians as the formation of 'death panels' to euthanize seniors.

Portland, Ore. – Health insurance reform continues to grip both chambers of Congress and the Obama administration; it also remains a focal point of former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whose criticism of Portland’s contribution to the House health reform bill fueled a conservative uprising.

President Obama this week noted that the end-of-life counseling amendment, sponsored by Portland’s U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, had been used by conservatives and a “prominent politician” to spread “cynical and irresponsible” charges. Obama referred to Palin and her claim that the amendment would lead to so-called death panels for senior citizens.

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Sarah Palin’s New Death Panel

The GOP is slowing down healthcare reform to a snail's pace.

The GOP is slowing down healthcare reform to a snail's pace.

Sarah Palin popped up again today on the Wall Street Journal’s Op-Ed page to renew her accusation that President Obama was advocating “death panels.” Never mind that lawmakers have already abandoned the proposal that gave rise to the original “death panel” hysteria, namely, a provision allowing Medicare to pay doctors no more than once every five years to counsel patients about their options for “end of life” care. (Some top geriatricians think such counseling would actually give the elderly more control by encouraging them to declare their preferences while they’re still capable of doing so. But I digress.) This time, Palin attacked Obama’s proposal to beef up MedPAC — the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. The 17-member MedPAC makes recommendations to Congress about how much doctors and hospitals should be paid for the services they provide. To insulate these decisions from political pressure, Obama has proposed giving a new version of MedPAC the power to set reimbursement levels, with Congress retaining the power to veto those decisions before they take effect. To Palin, though, this amounted to giving “an unelected, largely unaccountable group of experts” the power to make life-and-death decisions about care.

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Will The Media Take the Sarah Palin Bait?

Sarah Palin at the Republican Governors Association conference on November 13, 2008.

Sarah Palin speaking at the Republican Governors Association conference.

Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice presidential candidate, has every right to submit an opinion piece on health care to the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page, and they’ve got every right to print it. But Palin’s existence in this debate does not (a) lend her voice any credibility and, beyond that, even if you believe that her experience as a state governor does give her at least a modicum of credibility, it does not follow that, because her voice is credible, it ought to be influential. Newt Gingrich is influential by rights; he’s done the work, come up with original ideas, and been in the trenches. (Replacing Medicare with vouchers…not new or remotely plausible, even if GOPers do well in the next two elections. Quoting Ronald Reagan talking about that type of proposal…not new. Etc.) Continue reading

California’s Real ‘Death Panels’: Insurers Deny 21% of Claims

Nataline Sarkisyan died while awaiting a life-saving liver transplant recommended by doctors that her health insurance company CIGNA denied.

Nataline Sarkisyan died while awaiting a life-saving liver transplant recommended by doctors that her health insurance company CIGNA denied.

More than one of every five requests for medical claims for insured patients, even when recommended by a patient’s physician, are rejected by California’s largest private insurers, amounting to very real death panels in practice daily in the nation’s biggest state, according to data released today by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.

CNA/NNOC researchers analyzed data reported by the insurers to the California Department of Managed Care. From 2002 through June 30, 2009, the six largest insurers operating in California rejected 31.2 million claims for care – 21 percent of all claims.

The data will be presented by Don DeMoro, director of CNA/NNOC’s research arm, the Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy, at CNA/NNOC’s biennial convention next Tuesday, Sept. 8 in San Francisco. The convention will also feature a panel presentation from nurse leaders in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia exploding the myths about their national healthcare systems.

“With all the dishonest claims made by some politicians about alleged ‘death panels’ in proposed national legislation, the reality for patients today is a daily, cold-hearted rejection of desperately needed medical care by the nation’s biggest and wealthiest insurance companies simply because they don’t want to pay for it,” said Deborah Burger, RN, CNA/NNOC co-president.

For the first half of 2009, as the national debate over healthcare reform was escalating, the rejection rates are even more striking.

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Sarah Palin, Meet Hippocrates

Palin on Obama's Death Panels

Palin on Obama's Death Panels

As if you hadn’t heard, a gaggle of American conservatives is stridently charging that pending health care reform legislation will institute a mechanism for euthanizing selected members of the handicapped and elderly populations–that it would, in Sarah Palin’s formulation, establish “death panels.” It’s true that H.R. 3200, the bill that will eventually come before the House of Representatives, is still a work in progress. It has already been amended by three separate House committees, while two Senate committees are working on drafts of their own. All of the provisions to be included in the final bill are not yet known, but one thing is certain: There is not a single statement in the voluminous number of pages under study that contains the slightest consideration, no matter its remoteness, of death panels, euthanasia, or any such fearsome concept.

In reality, the legislation simply calls for the reimbursement of physicians who counsel patients on end-of-life decision-making–counseling that is already required by a 1990 law and that is now covered by many insurance plans. But the specifics of the present bill are irrelevant to the loony conversation the right has sparked during the August recess. After all, even if there were some provision before Congress that could conceivably be interpreted as establishing a “death panel,” centuries, if not millennia, of established medical ethics (in addition to existing U.S. law) would prevent its actualization. In the midst of this crucial debate on the future of health care, somehow, the proponents of the euthanasia talking point seem to have forgotten everything we know about the practice of medicine in America.

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The GOP Has Become a Party of Nihilists

GOP Death Panels

The GOP controls the strings of scare tactic 'death panels' myth.

In one of those awful collisions between public policy and real life, I was in the midst of an awkward conversation about end-of-life issues with my father when Sarah Palin raised the remarkable idea that the Obama Administration’s attempt to include such issues in its health-care-reform proposal would lead to “death panels.” Let me tell you something about my family situation, a common one these days, in order to illuminate the obscenity of Palin’s formulation and the cowardice of those, like Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the lead Republican negotiator on the Senate Finance Committee, who have refused to contest her claim.

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