When Stupid Wins: R.I.P., Section 1233

Cross-posted from Blue Moose Democrat.

I'm somewhat of a Blue Dog, but when it comes to reforming America's broken health care system, a system that is failing one third of this country's population:

Senator Chuck Grassley is a two-faced charlatan.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele is a pandering buffoon.
Rep. Virginia Foxx and lobbyist Rudy Giuliani are dishonest fear-mongers.
Media clowns Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Betsy McCaughey are ruthless liars.
Facebook user Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are at best flip-floppers, and at worst, world-class hypocrites.

I do not use these words because these men and women are Republicans; my desire is not to be partisan. There have been good Republicans in the past and there will be good Republicans in the future, just as there have been bad Democrats in the past and there will be bad Democrats in the future. No, I use these charged words because all of these politicians know the facts about the House health care bill and yet have decided to pander to an uneducated public and then write serious legislation based on their own lies.

I am of course talking about Section 1233 of HR 3200, the health care bill that has passed the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Section 1233 is called "Advance Care Planning Consultation" and includes the following language:

The term `advance care planning consultation' means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning, if, subject to paragraph (3), the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years. Such consultation shall include the following:

`(A) An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to.
`(B) An explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses.
`(C) An explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.
`(D) The provision by the practitioner of a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families with advance care planning, including the national toll-free hotline, the advance care planning clearinghouses, and State legal service organizations.

It goes on. It's pretty dense language, so what does it mean? It means that health insurance should pay for special voluntary meetings between seniors and their doctors every five years so the patient can learn about issues that will come up at the inevitable end-of-life, whenever that end may occur. These issues include things like hospice care, power of attorney, and living wills. The reason this is included in the bill is that a plurality of health care expenses come in the last few months of a patient's life. Way back in March, before this bill was written, Reuters reported:

Thirty percent of Medicare's annual costs are spent on the five percent of beneficiaries who will die in a given year. Additionally, about one-third of those dollars spent in the last year of life are spent in the last month... Researchers in this recent survey looking at costs in the last week of life indicate that if 50 percent of people had a discussion with their physician about end-of-life care preferences, the cost difference in a year could be more than $76 million dollars.

Why did I highlight four phrases in my description of the bill? Because voluntary meetings are not death panels; hospice care is not euthanasia; and living wills do not ask you how you want to die. And yet, these are the words right-wing pundits are using to describe the bill. These are the inflammatory terms that the spinmeisters are using to misinform and enrage conservative voters, and Republican leaders are letting them do it.

Section 1233 is the passage Sarah Palin was talking about last week when she said Obama would make her baby face a "death panel." It is the passage Glenn Beck had in mind when he ranted about Nazis and eugenics on Wednesday and it is the passage Rush Limbaugh was referring to when he said on Monday that euthanasia is in the House bill. Of course, these three media voices didn't come up with such filth on their own. At an AARP forum on July 28, one misinformed audience member told the President that she had heard that the bill mandated"everyone that's Medicare age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die," and it was former NY Lt. Gov Betsy McCaughey who said back on July 16 that HR 3200"would make it mandatory -- absolutely require -- that every five years people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner." More recently, it was Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) who on July 28 said the bill will "put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government." Giuliani and Steele joined the parade when they said Palin's predictions were, respectively, "natural" and "perfectly appropriate". Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also refused to repudiate Palin's choice of words.

So this lie gets out there and misinformed Glenn Beck viewers get fired up and everyone storms town hall meetings and demands that Congress not support euthanasia, eugenics, or death panels, never mind that Congress was never considering any of that crap in the first place. And what do Republican leaders do? Do they stand up and say, "No no no! We don't think this is a good bill, but please understand the reasons WHY we think it's a bad bill and not spread lies about our decent colleagues!"

Of course not. Instead they play on fear and pander to the crowds, encouraging lies that will make Democrats look evil. And as a result, bad legislation will be written.

I call Sarah Palin a hypocrite because while she may call assistance with living wills a "death panel" issue now, it turns out that she supported it as governor. And so, it would seem, did Gingrich less than two months ago. But worst of all is Senator Charles Grassley (R-IO), one of six Senate Finance Committee members (as well as the Ranking Member) drafting the bill that will ultimately become the heart of the Senate's legislation. Claiming that Section 1233 "could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly," Grassley has said that the provision will not be included in the Senate bill. That's right: Charles Grassley is drafting legislation based on how well-informed Glenn Beck keeps his viewers. Because Beck has not correctly explained this bill, Grassley seems to figure if the town hall mobs who haven't read the bill don't understand the dense legislative language, maybe the guys over at Health and Human Services who helped write it won't understand it either! Instead of educating the crowds, he is giving into their rage and ignorance and writing legislation based upon it. I think more of the American people than that, and I believe they deserve better.

If Grassley and Co. don't want Obama to be able to lead this country, they should stand up and say so. What they should not do is treat the American people as if stupid is all we understand. There should be no place for dirty games on an issue as serious as saving the lives of folks with heart disease or diabetes but no health insurance.

There are good Republicans in this country, but not nearly as many as there used to be. Lisa Murkowski and Bob Inglis are two of the very few left in office. Let it be understood: If no one steps forward to educate the American people about the policies of the elected officials they voted for just nine months ago, if the names Palin, Steele, Gingrich, Giuliani, McCaughey, and especially Beck and Grassley remain unchecked, then they will destroy everything their once-proud party ever stood for and they will take the citizens of this country down with them.

Cross-posted from Blue Moose Democrat.

Tags: Betsy McCaughey, Chuck Grassley, end-of-life care, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Health care, Michael Steele, newt gingrich, Republicans, Rudy Giuliani, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Virginia Foxx (all tags)


1 Comment

it may be restored

when the various bills are reconciled. But you are right that Grassley and other conservatives are being given way too much power over this whole process.

I suspect that part of the problem is Obama's bipartisan obsession, and part of the problem is the desire for Baucus and the White House to use Republican support as cover for giving away the store to corporate interests.  They can claim they made those compromises to win Republican votes, instead of admitting they are making deals with AHIP and big Pharma.

by desmoinesdem 2009-08-14 12:50PM | 0 recs


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