Washington Matters


Lies, Death Panels and Euthanasia


Of all the distortions being spread about the health care debate, none is more outrageous than the one circulated by Sarah Palin. (No surprise there.) Free of any official accountability, she used her Facebook page to attack, which allowed her to ignore criticism and questions.

As you probably know by now, she accused President Obama of trying to force sick people to go in front of "death panels" that will decide whether a sick person contributes enough to society to deserve treatment. She went on to personalize her attack, suggesting Obama's ideas would mean that her son Trig, who has Down's Syndrome, would be denied care.

Can she possibly believe this?

The irony is that under the plans being discussed in Congress, Trig would do a whole lot better than he would under the current system. When children with severe illnesses become too old for their parents' policies, it is virtually impossible for them to get individual coverage because insurers reject them for having a pre-existing condition. Those who are rich can still pay for care -- and that will always be true, as it is even in socialized countries -- but the rest must first exhaust their savings and then go on Medicaid (one of those "evil" government programs). Does Palin think that's a great way to operate?

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Palin was of course distorting a provision in one House bill that would reimburse Medicare patients if they voluntarily ask a doctor for "end of life counseling" that explains their many options. There may well be problems with that provision. It needs to have better safeguards to make sure seniors don't feel even the slightest pressure to agree to something they're not comfortable with. But talking about death panels or claiming Obama favors euthanasia is truly beyond the pale. It's more than a misunderstanding or a misreading by Palin and others; it is calculated misinformation spread knowingly by them for political effect. 

One of the most discouraging things about the health care debate is that opponents have scared the bejeesus out of seniors. The level of misinformation was aptly captured by the senior who demanded the government keep its hands off of Medicare, forgetting apparently that the government runs Medicare.

More significantly, many seniors seem adamant in opposing any cost-cutting ideas that may limit their options for health care or increase their costs. They like Medicare the way it is.

But the fact is that Medicare is going broke and is simply unsustainable without some program and benefit cuts or more revenue from payroll taxes, and the latter is less likely. Will that means compromises? You betcha, but that would happen with or without broader health reform. And anyone who thinks there isn't some "rationing" going on now is living in a dream world. When copays for certain drugs or procedures are higher than for other drugs and seniors, that is rationing for those who can't afford the higher choices. When doctors refuse to participate in Medicare, that means beneficiaries can't choose any doctor they want.

But these facts are being totally drowned out by the din of the "rabid responses," as Roger Simon noted in a recent Politico column. How we get this debate back to more sane grounds is a big question. It may not be possible. And that will be the real destruction of the America that Obama-haters insist the president is intent on destroying. If we can't consider important issues and debate their merits based on facts and analysis, what hope is there for solving our problems.




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