You are here

Health Insurance Reform - DAILY MYTHBUSTER: 'Death Panel' and 'Selective Standards'

Health Insurance Reform DAILY MYTHBUSTER: ‘Death Panel' and ‘Selective Standards'

Health insurance reform opponents, recently joined by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, continue to spread myths about components of America's Affordable Health Choices Act. The facts, however, disprove Palin and Gingrich's claims and expose their real motive: scaring seniors in a cynical effort to stop the necessary national debate about health insurance reform.

Myth:  “… my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide… whether they are worthy of health care…'- Palin on Facebook [8/7/09]

“You are asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there are clearly people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards.” -Gingrich [8/9/09]

Fact:  Nothing could be further from the truth. America's Affordable Health Choices Act extends Medicare coverage to cover the cost of patients voluntarily speaking with their doctors about their values and preferences regarding end-of-life care--empowering older Americans on this critical issue. These are deeply personal decisions that take thoughtful consideration, and it is only appropriate that doctors be compensated for their time.

  • There is nothing in the bill that can be construed as a “death panel.” There are no government-chosen professionals involved in these decisions. There are no government officials using “selective standards” to decide anything about a person's medical treatment plan. The legislation simply allows Medicare to pay for a conversation between patients and their doctors.
  • Advance planning consultations are not mandatory; this benefit is completely voluntary. The provision merely provides coverage under Medicare to have a conversation once every five years if - and only if - a patient wants to make his or her wishes known to a doctor. If desired, patients may have consultations more frequently if they are chronically ill or if their health status changes.
  • There is no mandate in the bill to complete an advance care directive or living will.  If a patient chooses to complete an advance directive or order for life sustaining treatment, these documents will help articulate a full range of treatment preferences, from full and aggressive treatment to limited, comfort care only. Patients that choose to have these documents and can customize them so that their wishes are appropriately reflected.

Corroboration: That is why news outlets and independent organizations are criticizing these scare tactics:

USA Today
, in an editorial this morning, wrote: “… lies appear to be in full sprint as the nation's health care debate goes local… In this case it's a section of a House bill inserted by members of both parties to allow Medicare to pay doctors for optional end-of-life counseling, something that's already covered in a new patient's first Medicare visit.  Anyone who has struggled with the decisions patients and family members must make as death approaches knows the value of having thought this through ahead of time and having made their wishes clear…
“But critics have twisted this into a sinister, cost-saving plot by the government to force seniors to end their lives early… the notion was picked up by House Republican Leader John Boehner, who said the provision was a precursor to ‘government-encouraged euthanasia.' Former Alaska GOP governor Sarah Palin has now weighed in with a Facebook posting that claims that Obama would create a government-run ‘death panel.'
Neutral arbiters have rightly demolished this. FactCheck.org labels the claim ‘nonsense' and says calling this forced euthanasia is like saying ‘a bill making retirement planning easier would force Americans to quit their jobs.' Terrifying seniors over this provision is shameless.” [8/10/09]

AARP:  Trusted senior groups such as the AARP are supporting insurance reform because “This measure would not only help people make the best decisions for themselves, but also better ensure that their wishes are followed… To suggest otherwise is a gross, and even cruel, distortion…” [7/24/09]

White House Reality Check Web Site:  The White House has established a special Reality Check web site to fight opponents' misrepresentations of health insurance reform. To visit the White House's Reality Check, please click here.

For more health insurance reform myth busting, please click here.

For more information on America's Affordable Health Choices Act, please click here.