Remember the Left and the MSM making fun of the TEA Parties and Sarah Palin for raising the alarm that Obamacare would include euthanasia or “death panels” — triage “end of life” counseling to discourage the elderly and the very sick from partaking in costly medical procedures? Reacting to those warnings, Obama promised that his healthcare reform plan would not “pull the plug on grandma.”
Contrary to the derisions heaped on Palin and the TEA parties, their warnings were neither paranoic nor fanciful. In November 2009, the House actually passed a measure known as Section 1233 of the healthcare reform bill which would allow Medicare to pay for consultations about “advance care planning” every five years. But Section 1233 was not included in the final Obamacare legislation.
Now, as reported by NewsMax, the New York Times tells us that the Obama administration is doing exactly that — “pulling the plug on grandma.”
In “Obama Returns to End-of-Life Plan that Caused Stir,” Robert Pear of the NY Times reports on December 25 that on December 3, the Obama administration issued a new Medicare regulation detailing “voluntary advance care planning” that is to be included during patients’ annual checkups. The regulation aimed at the aged “may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.”
The new provision, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, allows Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling to help beneficiaries “deal with the complex decisions families face when a loved one is approaching death.” In contrast to the defunct Section 1223 that would have these “advance care planning” consultations every 5 years, the new Medicare rule allows annual discussions as part of a patient’s “wellness” visits.
Elizabeth D. Wickham, executive director of LifeTree, a pro-life Christian educational ministry, told the Times that she is concerned that such end-of-life counseling would encourage patients to forgo or curtail care, thus hastening death. “The infamous Section 1233 is still alive and kicking,” Wickham said. “Patients will lose the ability to control treatments at the end of life.”
The rule was issued by Dr. Donald Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to the Times. He is a longtime advocate for rationing medical procedures for the elderly, arguing that rationing will have to be implemented eventually, stating, “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care. The decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.”
Before Obama tapped Berwick for the Medicare post, Berwick had long applauded Britain’s National Health Service, which uses an algorithm to determine whether the aged are worthy of additional expenditures for medical care and advanced treatments.
Berwick has argued Seniors appear to be a major target for precious resources under the Obamacare plan. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare cuts nearly $500 billion in Medicare benefits to seniors as the federal government adds 30 million uninsured Americans to private and public healthcare systems.
The cost of caring for the elderly has not been lost on Berwick. “The chronically ill and those towards the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here . . . there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place,” he said.
Berwick is not alone in arguing for triage death panels.
Last month, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman told ABC News that rising Medicare costs could be dealt with only by “death panels and sales taxes.” He added: “Medicare is going to have to decide what it’s going to pay for. And at least for starters, it’s going to have to decide which medical procedures are not effective at all and should not be paid for at all. In other words, it should have endorsed the [death] panel that was part of the healthcare reform.”
In effect, what has happened is this:
Bypassing Congress and in contravention of the popular will, Obama has reinserted “death panels” into America’s health care system via an administrative rule added to Medicare.
Why do we even other to have a Congress to represent the people and pass laws when Obama the President can just rule by fiat?
Worse still, Obama did this nearly a month ago, but America’s news media only just found out.
H/t beloved fellow May.
UPDATE (Jan. 7, 2011):
After the New York Times published its article on the Obama administration’s sneaky re-introduction of “death panels,” the news hit the blogosphere and conservative talk radio. Four days after the new policy took effect, on January 4, 2011, the Times reports that the Obama administration abruptly reversed course: All references to “end-of-life planning” as part of the annual physical examinations covered under the new Obamacare law will be deleted from Medicare regulations!
Sunlight really is the best disinfectant.