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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year, Same Old Lies

Erin Kelly

Staff Writer

The New Year should welcome in a clean slate, but since opponents of reform won’t give up their campaign of misinformation, we have to set the record straight yet again.

Let’s all say it together this time: The Affordable Care Act does not contain death panels.

Period.

The rumors started last year when a few opponents of health reform saw an opportunity to gain political points by misrepresenting a benefit in the bill.

Here’s the short of it: When the House passed the bill in November of 2009, there was a provision that allowed Medicare to pay for consultations about advanced care planning every five years. This gives patients and their doctors the opportunity to discuss what should happen if they get sick and need to make decisions about how much—or how little—end of life care he or she wants.

But, because the professional misinformants on the right hit the ground running to convince the American people that the bill contained “death panels,” Congress took out the provision to avoid any controversy and to help usher the bill through the legislative process.

Since the provision would have been a real benefit to consumers, the White House has decided to re-enact it by way of regulation. This means that as of January 1st, doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care will now be reimbursed by Medicare.

That’s it. No death panels. No mythical bureaucrat standing between you and your doctor. The regulation simply ensures that Medicare beneficiaries have the opportunity to consult with their doctor to make their own decision. It is completely voluntary and the government has no say in what the patient chooses to do.

So why is this advance planning so critical? A recent New York Times article notes,

In a recent study of 3,700 people near the end of life, Dr. Maria J. Silveira of the University of Michigan found that many had “treatable, life-threatening conditions” but lacked decision-making capacity in their final days. With the new Medicare coverage, doctors can learn a patient’s wishes before a crisis occurs.

And that’s the truth. There are no death panels and no one in the government will come to your house to “pull the plug on grandma.”

Perhaps, misinformants should add “stop starting and perpetuating myths” to their list of New Year’s resolutions?