The First Draft: health care heat wave

August 10, 2009

USA/The temperature’s heading toward 100 in Washington, and things are getting hotter in the debate over health care too, even with Congress out of town for the traditional August recess and President Barack Obama in Mexico for the so-called Three Amigos summit.

Taking aim at the orchestrated — or not — attacks on congressional supporters of the Obama health care plan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer struck back in an opinion piece in USAToday: “Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.”

The two top House Democrats aren’t commenting in a vacuum. Obama’s Saturday radio and Web address focused on the “outlandish” tactics of some opponents of health care reform.

PALIN/That followed a note by Sarah Palin — ex-governor, ex-vice-presidential candidate but still somehow claiming attention in Washington — on Facebook last week, alleging that Obama’s health care plan would have what she called a “death panel” that would let bureaucrats decide who would be “worthy of health care.” Palin, who has slammed the media for focusing on her children, said her “baby with Down Syndrome” would have to come before such a bureaucratic panel.

ABC News asked, reasonably, what Palin was talking about when she mentioned a “death panel,” and was referred to HR3200 p. 425, “Advance Care Planning Consultation” about end-of-life care. No specific mention of any death panel.

The non-partisan Factcheck.org site says its e-mail inbox has been “exploding” recently with queries asking whether this provision encourages suicide at the end of life. The answer, Factcheck.org said, is no. “Page 425 does deal with counseling sessions for seniors, but it is far from recommending a “Logan’s Run” approach to Medicare spending. In fact, it requires Medicare to cover counseling sessions for seniors who want to consider their end-of-life choices –- including whether they want to refuse or, conversely, require certain types of care. The claim that the bill would ‘push suicide’ is a falsehood.”

Will this be the end of the discussion? Our considered opinion: not a chance!

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credits: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, July 22, 2009, Washington DC)
REUTERS/Nathaniel Wilder (Sarah Palin, July 26, 2009. Fairbanks, Alaska)

25 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

My mother, 75 years old, on a fixed income, is scared to death about page 425 of the health reform bill. no matter how much information I give her, she receives emails daily about the “death warrants” she is an educated woman, and has never been afraid in the 54 years I have known her, NEVER ONCE,she is like a scared child. What are these ignorant people doing? and why? they can read, they know they are spinning the truth. They know they are scaring old people, and yet they offer no better solution.. What can we do? I say make sure you vote those fear mongers out of office, and make sure they know why you are voting them out.

Posted by cathy s california | Report as abusive

Despite their massive failure in the 2008 election, it seems that the GOP has decided to double-down on its “angry teabagger” strategy, this time to thwart the diabolical evil known as health care reform. That’s right – if there’s one thing worth fighting for in the richest country in the world, it’s the right to make sure that millions of your fellow citizens can’t have access to a doctor.

Is this what the GOP leadership had in mind when they encouraged their base to get active? Can they actually think that this silly season mayhem is going to put them back into power? If the Dems pull out a win on health care and the economy begins to recover, it’s over for the GOP for at least a generation, and they know it. That’s why they are pulling out all the stops.

The latest Gallup Poll reveals that “the most important number in politics today” is…

37.

That’s the number of states that are either “solidly or leaning Democratic in a series of Gallup tracking polls conducted over the first six months of 2009. Only eight states are solidly or leaning Republican in that same data.

“The numbers, which are based on party identification of adults in national tracking polls, paint a stark portrait of the challenge facing Republicans not just in the 2010 midterm election but also in the 2012 presidential race.”

There are currently 29 states in which Democrats enjoy a 10-percentage point (or more) edge on party identification. Compare that to just four states where the Republican edge is ten points or higher (Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Alaska) and one (Alabama) that leans toward the GOP.

Add up the 29 states that are in the solidly Democratic category, according to Gallup, and you get 350 electoral votes; add up the four states in the solidly Republican category and you get 15 electoral votes.

See what I mean?

But don’t give up hope, teabaggers – just keep on making death threats and shouting nonsense at the top of your voices, and I’m sure the Republican Party will sweep back into power any day now.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

If you hold a rock in the air, then release if from your grip, what happens?

If you empower a government agency to manage a health care system, and then limit it’s budget, what will happen?

The proposed system is just like the public schools system. Lawyers and unions force spending on certain things. When the budget is no longer sufficient administrators cut teachers and books to it. In a health care system, what will they cut to balance the budget?

I think it’s perfectly reasonable for “unproductive” citizens, and those who love them, to be deeply concerned.

Posted by RK | Report as abusive

Palin is absolutely right. Just because the exact words “death panel” are not used doesn’t mean its not in the bill. What do you think an “Advance Care Planning Consultation about end-of-life care” is?? Duh? I can tell you first hand, having lived overeseas in several countries with government run health care, those exact kinds of calculations are made every day about who receives treatment and who doesn’t. And guess what, the over-riding factor is not about what’s in your best health interests but is exactly what Palin outlines; how old are you? What contribution can you still make to society? Versus how much does the treatment cost and is it in the best interest of society for you to receive it? Need a hip replacement at 80 yrs old, forget about it. Need the latest experimental cancer treatment to prolong your life at age 72, buy your casket. Need expensive pain treatments while in hospice to ease your suffereing. Endure the pain and shut up you’re dying anyway. Don’t listen to the soaring rhetoric and hype. This is the reality of government run heathcare. Wake-Up America or Die a slow Socialist Death.

Posted by Rubicon Cross | Report as abusive

Who gets treatment, of what type, and when, is determined by government workers in England and I don’t see how that won’t happen here as well.

Posted by Alexander | Report as abusive

Palin will not win America if she thinks she has her say but is insensitive. She can only describe a proposal but gives no suggestion and better reform approach. Another republican style. Only criticism (period). Poor Palin!

Posted by gagalala | Report as abusive

What we have here is a sizable fraction of public not caring to know enough about what is really going on and falling for falsehoods and “catchwordism” spread by vested interests.

Posted by STanveer | Report as abusive

It’ll be too naive to think we can trust these politicians (democrats & republicans alike) that they’re telling us the truth. Everyone (including the messiah) is out to promote their own agenda. Before anyone endorses, I beg you to please think this within your own mind whether to support or oppose this bill which will most certainly change our country to look like France or Russia in the next few years on an irreversible course, if passed.

Posted by CJ, Ohio | Report as abusive

Everyone is for healthcare reform in the wake of the reports that the big health management corporations (health insurance companies) have made record profits in the past 2 years. No one expects free healthcare, but there is absolutely no reason for the average person to have to pay such outlandish healthcare premiums and blame the cost increases on the “medical community”. Sure, doctors make too much money, we all know that and their incomes should match their job descriptions, but that’s another story. Doctors somehow equate a few years of medical school to making millions of dollars a year in salaries. That, too is abusrd. Pay them $150,000 a year and be done with it. Doctors blame the insurance companies and insurance companies blame the doctors, all the while both are making millions or billions off of the premiums and office charges that we stupidly continue to pay. If people would stop routinely visiting their doctors for a 3 minute, several hundred dollar price tag, consultation for illness that most of time could be treated without the so-called medical community, we’d see that free market competition would indeed lower healthcare costs tremendously for all. Maybe the doctors would stop practicing defensive medicine and get on with caring for the few who actually need care. The ineptitude of most medical workers is just amazing these days. Doctors think they are way too important to actually do anything with patiets except spend a brief time reading the chart to the patient after the $8 and hour medical worker has completed all tests and paperwork. Maybe the Obama plan will deal with some of this waste and outrageous money that doctors and healthcare companies are making. Many say we’ll get lower quality medical staff, etc. So what? What a novel idea!

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive

Some people paint the republicans as villains when it fact the “blue dog” democrats are the ones stopping this horrible health care bill from passing. Everyone knows the democrats don’t need even one republican vote in the house and senate to pass health care reform. However, the democrats also know they will be up for re-election next year and they know what the majority of us know, they are going to pay a price if they vote for this junk.

The American people are not behind this health care fiasco. Here are some of the numbers from the Rasmussen polls:

“Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters now say tax cuts for the middle class are more important than new spending for health care reform, even as the president’s top economic advisers signal that tax hikes may be necessary to support the plan.”

“For many Americans, particularly the vast majority who already have health insurance, the urgency is not as great. In fact, 48% of voters now rate the U.S. health care system as good or excellent, a significant increase in support over the past few months. Eighty percent (80%) of those with insurance rate their own coverage as good or excellent.”

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared several days ago that health insurance companies are “villains,” but just 25% of voters agree with her.”

“Just 28% say they are willing to pay higher taxes so that all Americans can have health insurance. Sixty percent (60%) are opposed. Those figures are little changed since May.”

These are the indisputable facts regarding the health care lies we are being told from the president, congress ACORN, the unions, etc.

The majority of Americans do not agree with them. Fact.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

I just need to know which of the 5 versions of the bill we should be reading. I try to stay informed and not appear “ignorant,” but which bill is the bill? How can our legislators be planning to vote on something when no one has told anyone which bill they will be voting on? Would appreciate some guidance on that!

Posted by Lena | Report as abusive

Uh-boy, here we go again with the Rasmussen polls.

Rasmussen polls may show a majority of respondents do not want a government run (or any similar version) health care program, but the Rasmussen polls themselves are in the minority of polling results. The reason TC only quotes Rasmussen Polls is that Rasmussen is the only poll that tells him what he wants to hear. Scott Rasmussen is a conservative pollster. He is very good with issue polling that has wording that’s designed to lead to conservative-friendly results. When those results come out, conservatives like TC promote the results as vindicating their position.

So here is little background on Scott Rasmussen-

During the 2000 election season, Scott Rasmussen wrote a column for rabidly conservative WorldNetDaily. Yes, the same WorldNetDaily that just claimed to have Barack Obama’s actual Kenyan birth certificate. Whoops!

After the 2000 election, Rasmussen wrote articles and spoke at the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, pushing the conservative case for privatizing Social Security. “In fact, 46 percent of American adults say that relying on the government is riskier than letting workers invest for their own retirement,” wrote Rasmussen in a January 2001 article arguing that president Bush should push for private accounts. “Just 36 percent say letting workers invest is more risky, while 18 percent are not sure.” As you can see, Rasmussen is influential with conservatives because his carefully crafted questions produce answers that conservatives like.

During the debate over the Stimulus Bill, other pollsters, such as Gallup and CBS News, found support for it rising as high as 60 percent, but Rasmussen never saw it rise above 45 percent. He was the only pollster to find support for the plan falling in a poll conducted on February 2 and 3. Rasmussen leaked the poll results early, to Bill Kristol, who used it to write articles against the plan. Republicans such as Rep. Mike Pence cited Rasmussen to argue that support for the Democratic version of the stimulus was plunging. At a Feb. 10 briefing, Pence argued with reporters who cited Gallup instead of Rasmussen.

Now we see the same pattern emerging in the healthcare debate. Polls across the board show overwhelming support for a public option, for single payer, and for Democratic policy proposals over Republican ones. Except one. I urge anyone following this thread to go to http://www.pollingreport.com/health.htm and scroll down the page. There are no less than 12 polls listed. None reflect what TC and the Medical Industrial Teabagger Complex is pushing at you. Not one.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

getplaning. It really doesn’t matter how much you want your side to win (I know…democrat), the facts of the matter is the numbers I have provided are true and accurate. Go ahead and blame it all on conservative…this and that. It doesn’t make your personal attack diatribes valid. This blog will not change the outcome either way. I am flattered you take such an interest in my facts and opinions.

Regarding health care, the numbers prove only a minority of people in America want want what they are trying to force on us. If it could stand on its merits, then it would pass with flying colors. However, the great part about America is that the majority is speaking out and that is what free speech is all about. We are still America, afterall, and that means we all get to speak our mind.

Too bad the only time the debate reported as correct is when the minority (liberal) side has the edge. They try to shut up debate when it goes against there agenda…

Wow!

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

TC, I just like debunking conservative disinformation, that’s all. It’s nothing personal. It’s kind of a hobby.

Regarding healthcare, the numbers are solidly in favor of what the Obama administration is attempting to accomplish, and have been for a long time. You can hold on to your one Rasmussen poll, I’ll take the other 12 polls plus the last two elections.

Cheers

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

You aren’t debunking anything. You twist the numbers you give as though it is the truth. So, no worries, you are wrong and the majority of Americans know you are wrong. If you were right, then this whole mess in health care would be a slam dunk and would have passed already. It hasn’t passed because the administration and congress know what I know, they are in the minority on their way to forcing this fiasco on the rest of us.

You think you are right and until I brought in the facts about the Rasmussen poll information, you didn’t try to destroy its good reputation. Only after I brought you the numbers did you do what all liberals do to good people and organizations…you attempted to destroy, destroy, destroy…BTW, it never works. The majority of Americans are not behind what you say…

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

You guys are all totally crazy. I’m a dual citizen of Canada and America, and up here we think the hysteria and vitriol about this is just absurd. We have awesome health care–choice to go to any doctor, for free. I pay nothing a month in Alberta for health insurance. I can get generic drugs for a quarter of the cost of the name-brand you buy (and are lured to buy through television ads) in the States. It is not a communist system! Doctors here aren’t influenced by making more money–they are focused on what they should be focused on–making people better.
Your system is ridiculous given how world-class America is in so many other ways. Give up the idea that the government running something is scary and you will get infinitely better care. So what if your taxes go up? You’ll save far more money anyway by not having to pay some giant insurance company hundreds of dollars every month.
No one euthanizes us here. Everyone has freedom to the care they want. No one loses their life savings because they get cancer. It’s a glorious system. Canada isn’t perfect in other ways, but our health care is pretty sweet.

Posted by Janelle | Report as abusive

TC, you can hold on to your one Rasmussen poll, I’ll take the other 12 polls plus the last two elections. Do I really twist numbers by posting a link to 12 opinion polls? Tell us how that works. The facts are what do the debunking, not your opinion, or your one issue poll from a well known conservative pollster.
By the way, I’m flattered by your obsession with my postings. My best to brian.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

getplaning. It’s funny, you are a lemming. See what I say and then you either emulate it “flattered” (That’s emulating me) or you destroy once I prove what you attempt to debunk. Just the facts, you are a reactor and add nothing to the discussion already in process when you arrive.

As for the Canadian above. You do play every single month for all the social programs you have. I know taxes hover around 50 percent of every dollar you make. So, to say it is free is a lie, you pay dearly. I have a lot of family in Canada and they have always felt it stinks. I have an aunt who has to wait 4 years…..4 YEARS to get a FREE procedure done. In the meantime she has to live in pain. Well, that isn’t entirely accurate. In Alberta there are is a private clinic and if she wants to pay 2000 dollars she will get the procedure done now. Guess that Canadian health care isn’t so wonderful afterall.

In addition, my relatives come down here when they need health care now because they have to wait so long to get any sort of cut rate care in Canada. Well, you get what you pay for, I guess. Sorry, but I know the facts in Canada and your story isn’t accurate.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

Judging by the many posts from Canadians like Janelle, it would appear that YOUR story isn’t accurate. Ask any Canadian or Briton to trade their health sytem for the one in the United States, they will laugh in your face.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

Actually, you are speaking through people you don’t know. I am speaking about people I know who personally experience the disappointments and rejection of health care in Canada. I see and visit with my relatives and see what they experience and they all (okay there is always someone who doesn’t care either way…) say we don’t want to go down that road. They aren’t praising their so called FREE health care. Also, they love the letters from the government saying that because they reach a a milestone in their age that they are no longer covered for a whole host of procedures. Wow…such a wonderful system they have.

It doesn’t matter what you think because you continue to prove your ignorance of the reality of government health care and the polls. People are not with you in your thinking no matter how much you try to twist the numbers. The majority of Americans agree with everything I have been saying.

BTW, there is no way of knowing if Janelle is Canadian or not. I suspect she works for ACORN or a union and is being paid to spread lies about socialistic medicine.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

I disagree with the idea that Sarah’s fears are unfounded.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is Obama’s policy advisor on health care reform, the special adviser for health care at the Office of Management and Budget. He is also a member of Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research that is taking a preliminary look at what procedures will be covered on whom with an eye towards cost cutting.

Please look at this quote from this man, and try to tell me Palin’s fears are unfounded. He explicitly states that care should not be guaranteed for someone with Palin’s daughter’s condition, downs syndrome:

“Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia. A less obvious example Is is guaranteeing neuropsychological services to ensure children with learning disabilities can read and learn to reason.”

http://www.ncpa.org/pdfs/Where_Civic_Rep ublicanism_and_Deliberative_Democracy_Me et.pdf

Source: “Where Civic Republicanism and Deliberative Democracy Meet”, hastings center, 1996 (see link).

Another quote:

“When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated”

source: ‘Principles of allocation of scarce medical interventions’, January 31, 2009

For details about how this fits in with Obama’s “death panel”, look at this section from a wallstreet journal article:

http://sbk.online.wsj.com/article/SB1000 1424052970203609204574312451234786752.ht ml

McCaughey: It means reductions in hip replacements, knee replacements, bypass surgery, angioplasty…

Gigot: Doctors are not going to stop prescribing these things.

McCaughey: In the stimulus package was a provision for computers to be in doctors’ offices and hospitals at bedside–computers that would deliver protocols to doctors electronically on what the government deems cost-effective and appropriate care. There will be penalties for doctors who are not meaningful users of this system. The president appointed Dr. David Blumenthal national coordinator of health information technology, and he’s going to oversee ensuring that doctors obey these protocols. In The New England Journal of Medicine he wrote an article describing how he’s going do it.

Gigot: Won’t Congress push back?

McCaughey: Well, that’s why Peter Orszag, head of the Office of Management and Budget, part of the White House–went to Congress earlier this week and asked for permission to remove those decisions from Congress. He asked Congress to delegate the authority to make these decisions about what Medicare covers and how doctors are paid instead to a body outside of Congress, either MedPAC–a body that already exists, an advisory board–or a council created within the White House. [...]

I don’t believe we can count on the doctors that would be appointed to this to make the right decisions because, for example, the doctors that the president has already chosen to be his chief health advisers are ardent advocates of limiting care for the elderly. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, for example–brother of president’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel– has written that the elderly should get less care, that Americans are too enamored with high-tech care, and that people who have incurable illnesses–and he uses the example of dementia–should not be guaranteed health care because they no longer contribute to society.

(end quotation)
—–

More evidence that Sarah has good reason to worry can be seen in Obama’s choice of “Science Czar”, John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Obama’s Science Czar wrote a book explicitly advocating forced abortions and mass sterilization. See:

http://zombietime.com/john_holdren/

Posted by Susan Bracken | Report as abusive

If Canada’s single-payer system is such a disappointment, why have repeated Conservative governments at the provincial and national level in Canada never touched it? Is Canada a socialist country? If Canadians don’t like their health care system, why haven’t they gotten rid of it in 35 years? Since the system there is run by the separate provinces, many of which are very politically conservative, why has not one province ever tried to get rid of single-payer?

The executives of Canadian subsidiaries of US companies all support Canada’s single-payer system, and even lobby collectively to have it expanded and better funded. So your arguments are patently false, as is your accusation that poster Janelle and the other Canadians contributing to this thread are paid by SEIU or ACORN. Right wing paranoia at its best.

But your argument that people are flooding into the United States for our superior healthcare is also patently false. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reports that as many 500,000 people per year seek care overseas. How many people from Canada come to the United States each year to pay for services? A few, to be sure, those who can afford it.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

Nice try getplaning. Thank you for the truth Susan Bracken.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

Here’s your truth, TC. Facts, not opinion.

http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticN ews/idUSTRE57C40C20090813

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

getplaning. Your “Reuters” story says to me that Mexico is a destination for “good deals”, whether it be for a vacation, inexpensive housing on the ocean, trinkets and yes, even health care. All you prove is that people use Mexico to get good deals, no matter what the reason. That won’t stop anytime soon.

The second thing it tells me is that the Mexican clinics will be overflowing with people when they are denied health care in the United States with a “universal” system. When the government health care “accountant” says you can’t have a procedure because you are too old or it is too expensive for the government to pay, you can bet people will flock to Mexico like never before. It will make today’s “good deal” seekers pale in comparison.

So thank you for bringing up an option that will not only enrich Mexico, but will provide the medical care people younger than 15 and older than 40 won’t get under the plan the administration and congress want to force on us.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive