Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Latest Big Lie: Death Panels

Seniors are understandably vigilant about detrimental changes to Medicare, Social Security and other systems they depend on. So it is an easy if despicable tactic by opponents to healthcare reform that they are inflaming fear with their latest Big Lie: that reform includes government "death panels" that will decide who gets care and lives, and who is denied care and dies. It is wholly and entirely a lie--a very cynical and ugly lie.
It is an especially ugly lie because, as others point out, Death Panels do exist--not only for seniors but for everyone--and they are the insurance companies who decide who gets covered for what, when and how, and who doesn't. Insurance companies who make things up in order not to pay out what they've promised. And even some hospitals who deny care because insurance won't pay for it, even when it leads to someone's death.
In his town hall meeting on Tuesday in New Hampshire, President Obama reassured the audience that there is no such death panels provision in any proposed healthcare plan, and he would not permit such a provision. But he mentioned something that should be a real concern for seniors:
"Our deficit will continue to grow because Medicare and Medicaid are on an unsustainable path. Medicare is slated to go into the red in about eight to 10 years. I don't know if people are aware of that. If I was a senior citizen, the thing I'd be worried about right now is Medicare starts running out of money because we haven't done anything to make sure that we're getting a good bang for our buck when it comes to health care. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against people for the simple crime of being sick. Now, that's not a future I want for my children. It's not a future that I want for the United States of America."
The President wants healthcare reform that saves money, saves Medicare, expands coverage, increases choice, guarantees care cannot be denied because of preexisting condition or any other reason, and stops insurance companies from deciding who lives and who dies. "And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because no one in America should go broke because they get sick. "
But there is another aspect of what's been happening at town hall meetings on healthcare that should concern those who remember the traumas of the 1960s: the instigation of violence and the presence of guns.