Wednesday, January 5, 2011
The Obama administration today caved to Sarah Palin and the Tea Party loons and dropped a reference to end-of-life counseling from the ground rules for Medicare’s new annual checkup guidelines, a White House official said Wednesday.
The original House version of the Medicare overhaul legislation sought to allow for doctor/patient end-of-life discussions every few years. But the plan was dropped after Sarah Palin and the Tea Party mob raised the specter of “death panels” deciding the fate of vulnerable seniors. Those charges were later debunked by several non-partisan fact-checking groups.
End-of-life counseling unexpectedly surfaced again last year in a Medicare regulation that spelled out what would be covered in a new annual checkup, or wellness visit, authorized by the health care law. The regulation said such voluntary doctor-patient discussions could be part of the annual visit.
But the White House said they are now reversing the language because there wasn’t enough chance for all sides to comment on the change. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss what has turned into another embarrassing episode for the administration.
End-of-life planning is already an accepted part of care for people facing terminal illness, and the administration’s reversal is unlikely to have any impact there. Federal rules require hospital patients to be informed of their right to spell out in a living will or similar document their wishes about being kept alive by machinery if there’s no hope for a cure.
However, many doctors and public health advocates believe the government should take a more direct role in encouraging people to plan ahead. They say it would save families the painful ordeal of having to make agonizing decisions when a loved one is incapacitated.
It’s very interesting. In 2008, I thought I had voted to elect then-Sen. Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States but with episodes like this, I realize I inadvertently elected Sarah Palin.