The noise, and the half-truths, and the lies have taken a toll on healthcare reform. The provision for medicare to reimbuse for the cost of creating a living will, or other end-of-life counseling, has been removed from the draft under consideration by the U.S. Senate soley because of the lies that twisted it into something it was not, a secret plan to kill off old people and the disabled in order to save medicare dollars.
Opponents of healthcare reform, on the right, deliberately and knowingly lied and misrepresented this provision in order to stoke fear and anger and opposition in the elderly and their families. None of them actually believe the bullshit they’ve been spreading, which makes their part in this even more despicable. It might be less offensive if they did believe it. At least then we could assume that they were just stupid, but too many of them have gone on record in the past, in support of advance directives and living wills, for us to genuinely believe that they are now afraid of the “possible consequences” of such documents.
In April of last year, then Governor Sarah Palin declared Healthcare Decisions Day in Alaska specifically for healthcare providers, nursing homes, hospice facilities, and doctors, to raise awareness in their elderly patients of the great benefits of having an advance directive on healthcare. She extolled the virtues of living wills, and urged everyone to avail themselves of this opportunity to learn more about them. You can even download the Alaska Advance Directive forms from the state website. Does Alaska have its own Death Panel?
Earlier this year, Newt Gingrich wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post praising the many benefits of advance directives for the elderly, noting that the most expensive care people generally receive was at the end of their lives, and that only by having a living will could patients be certain they would not receive medical measures that they did not want. He even estimated, in his article, that this could save medicare as much as 33 billion dollars a year. You think he was also including the savings realized by the involuntary “offing” of your grandmother?
Now, of course, what Saint Sarah of Wasilla was promoting last year has somehow morphed into government “death panels” and a part of a healthcare system that is “downright evil.” And former Speaker of the House, the Newt, has decided that we cannot be expected to “trust the government” just to pay for your doctor’s time without also coercing him to kill you for the greater good. These people will say whatever they think will get them the most press coverage, and the most mileage with their base, regardless of the truth, and regardless of whether or not they even believe what they’re saying. It makes Palin’s admonition to the press to “stop makin’ things up” even more ludicrous than we already knew it was.
I still have great hope for this country, and the prospect that we will acheive meaningful healthcare reform in this administration, but it will only happen if the congress and the administration finally give up the idea of bipartisan support. The negotiators for the Republicans, like Chuck Grassley, are not bargaining in good faith. They are only involved to slow down the process, and eventually kill it. They are not going to vote for any bill, regardless of how many of their watered down ideas are included in it. So we may as well move on without them.
Besides, when, over the previous eight years, did the Republicans give a damn about bipartisan support for anything they did. They did what they wanted. They were proud of it. And they did not apologize for the fact that it was one-sided rule. I think it’s time the Democrats took a page from that book.