Health-Care Reform: Busting The Medicare Myths

Christopher Beam has a column up on Slate about health-care reform and the Medicare related myths being spread by the Right. Scaring Grandma

Page 425(pdf) of the House health care bill: The Right is trying to convince the elderly that they must be consulted about how they wish to die. Some how this comes out of right-wing sites such as World Nut Daily that Obama is going to kill old folks. Echoed by veteran enemies of health-care reform like Charlotte Allen.

In fact, the bill says the meeting must include “an explanation by the practitioner of the end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice”—not a recommendation of it. (Emphasis added.) Still, Obama pointed out that it’s not too late to remove the language: “If this is something that really bothers people, I suspect that members of Congress might take a second look at it.”

No wonder the Right wants to give this passage the Pravda treatment, its a twofer. Few people are going to read the actual bill so they get away with portraying Democrats and Obama as death merchants. The language of the actual bill protects patient rights regarding one of the most personal and important decisions people will make in their lives. The bill contradicts the Right’s propaganda about heath-care reform that allows the government controlling every facet of your care.

Betsy McCaughey, another propagandist is red flagging a passage that reads in part ( nothing makes for good spin like lifting a few words out of context) “the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration”. McCaughey claims this says the government gets to kill you when its convenient. She’s not even close, but rumors like this have their way into retirement and nursing homes,

But the bill specifically says that an order to withhold, say, an IV drip, must be one that “effectively communicates the individual’s preferences regarding life sustaining treatment, including an indication of the treatment and care desired by the individual.” In other words, a doctor can’t make you do it.

These subjects are difficult to talk about and to contemplate, but there may come a time that we as patients will have to make decisions about whether we want doctors to go to extraordinary means to extend our lives or to what degree we want them to go. Fear mongering ideologues like Allen and McCaughey want everyone to believe those decisions will be placed solely within the province of government bureaucrats. Democrats and a few enlightened Republicans created Medicare. A program that has, saved lives, improved the quality of life for America’s seniors and extended their life expectancy. Medicare among other progressive accomplishment take pride of place on the Democratic Party’s resume. If nothing else, it makes no political sense for Democrats to undermine a successful program about which they have historical bragging rights.

The bill also addresses concerns about “shared decision making” ( yet another among many passages that undermine the Conservative bull about government control. McCaughey takes consulting with your doctor about all the options available is a form of “coercion”. The health-care reform haters seem to want it both ways: be afraid the government will dictate health-care decisions and be afraid the government mandates that you be aware of all your options. The Right’s final message is just be afraid of anything President Obama does regardless of the facts.

Mr. Beam gets into a little strange spin on Obama’s words during the AARP talk from which Beam draws the quotes,

“[The] thing that I would be most worried about right now is health care inflation keeps on going up and the trust fund in 10 years is suddenly in the red. And now Congress has to make some decisions: Are they going to put more money into Medicare, especially given the deficits and the debt that we already have? Or are they, at that point, going to start making decisions about cutting benefits, but not based on any science or what’s making people healthier—they’re just going to start making it based on politics?”

I’m not sure where Beam sees the fear pandering. Bush gave America the Medicare drug benefit – the one that was a gift to big pharmaceutical companies and took out the competitive pricing component. So we know that Obama is right. Down the road there is plenty of reason to believe that people like McCaughey or Bush will reform health-care based purely on politics. We also know that that corporate America is actually deciding who goes into bankruptcy, and who lives and who dies. Fear of the status quo and fear of more Bush-like corporate pandering are well founded.

Bill Kristol, grand high potentate of all things intellectual on the conservative side of the political aisle thinks that the socialized medicine works well for soldiers, sailors and Marines, but everyone else can swill down some cheap wine and bite on a stick. Kristol is also too lazy to look up a few basic statistics on heath-care costs before he goes on TV to discuss them, Bill Kristol Says Things That Are The Opposite of True

Later in the interview, he says that the Army health-care system — which is fully socialized — is the best health-care system we’ve got, and the reason we can’t give it to all Americans is that it’s too expensive. Socialized medicine, in other words, works. The rest of us just don’t deserve it.

[    ]…”One reason the price of health care is going up so fast is because of government programs,” says Kristol. “The price of Medicare and Medicaid have gone up faster than private insurance. That’s well-documented.”

It is true that the growth rates of Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance are well-documented. But the documentation shows the opposite of what Bill Kristol says it shows. The price of Medicare and Medicaid have gone up much more slowly than private insurance.

Thanks to SadlyNo for Bill “heath-care expert” Kristol’s grasp of statistics, graphs and policy – they’re Kristol Klear. I’ll be burrowing that nickname in the future. Though I still like to imagine Kristol as the General of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders leading a cadre of pajama clad lads dribbling cold coffee over mom’s computer, genuflecting dutifully for every disastrous decision Bush made.

WaPo has a transcript up of the talk President Obama had with AARP in which he bats down most of the myths conservatives are spreading about Heath-care reform and Medicare.

OBAMA: All of this is what health insurance reform is all about: protecting your choice of doctor, keeping your premiums fair, holding down your health care and your prescription drug costs, improving the care that you receive. And that’s what health care reform will mean to folks on Medicare.

And we’ve made a lot of progress over the last few months. We’re now closer to health care reform than we ever have been before, and that’s due in no small part to the outstanding team that you have here at AARP, because you’ve been doing what you do best, which is organize and mobilize and inform and educate people all across the country about the choices that are out there, pushing members of Congress to put aside politics and partisanship, and finding solutions to our health care challenges.

I know it’s not easy. I know there are folks who will oppose any kind of reform because they profit from the way the system is right now. They’ll run all sorts of ads that will make people scared.

This is nothing that we haven’t heard before. Back when President Kennedy and then President Johnson were trying to pass Medicare, opponents claimed it was socialized medicine. They said it was too much government involvement in health care, that it would cost too much, that it would undermine health care as we know it.

But the American people and members of Congress understood better. They ultimately did the right thing. And more than four decades later, Medicare is still giving our senior citizens the care and security they need and deserve.

Columbus Ohio Skyline wallpaper

update: Health Care Reform and the Unpopular T-Word by David Leonhardt, in which he reports the Senate might be considering some kind of tax on health-care benefits. We know that Democrats are great at statistics, but frequently lack the will to fellow through and push the big sale. So how to handle the T word.

Health costs, on the other hand, are growing much more quickly than the economy. Over the last decade, the economy has expanded by about 20 percent, and health spending has ballooned 50 percent. The gap isn’t about to start closing, either.

So no matter what Congress has done to pay for its plans, it can’t keep up.

The numbers show there is only one sure way out of the problem, and, after months of roundabout discussion, that solution has re-emerged: It’s a tax on health care.

[  ]…In the case of health care, they buy — or their employer buys for them — insurance plans that don’t make much of an effort to control costs. Rather than putting pressure on hospitals to root out administrative waste, the plans cover the cost of that waste. They also cover the costs of brand-name drugs that are no more effective than generic alternatives and other kinds of expensive care that do little to improve health.

[   ]…To deal with this political reality, the Senate Finance Committee has become intrigued by a version of a health care tax, being pushed by the Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, that comes dressed up with a whole lot of lipstick. The tax doesn’t fall directly on workers. It doesn’t even fall on employers. It falls on everyone’s favorite villain: health insurance companies.

That shouldn’t be any tougher to sell then the actual reform. Health insurance companies are the health-care industry’s Gold-Sachs/AIG/Bank America. Health insurance companies have become oligopolies with record profits and sky high executive pay.