Yesterday, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (who was actually born Cow Blitzer) tormented his viewers by hosting retiring Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann for a discussion on The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare” by its supporters and “the end of Civilization as we know it” by its detractors. During the conversation (it wasn’t really an “interview” because she pretty much evaded answering just about every single question Blitzer put to her), Bachmann brought up the myth that the ACA has “death panels” in it. And while she also brought up a great number of other lies (I only noticed Blitzer pushing back on one of them, to which she said she would send him the proof; yeah, right), I want to focus on just the one about the death panels. They don’t exist.
Many people credit Sarah Palin with first raising the alarm about “death panels” in the ACA, but that credit should really go to former New York State Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey. In a New York Post column, McCaughey attempted to paint the healthcare bill then under consideration as one that “would put the decisions about your care in the hands of presidential appointees. They’d decide what plans cover, how much leeway your doctor will have and what seniors get under Medicare.” It helps to understand how she arrived at the conclusion if you remember that conservatives often equate a recommendation by the government with a mandate having the force of law. (That’s how they turned First Lady Michelle Obama’s recommendation that children eat better and exercise more with “the government’s going to tell you how to raise your kids.” Someone with more training in mental health issues could tell you better than I which form of psychosis this represents.) She cites as proof a distortion of statements and writings made years ago by two of President Obama’s advisors, long before they became his advisors. Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel (Rahm’s brother) was writing about the ethical consideration when doctors have too many patients to treat and not enough resources, including organs for transplant, to treat everybody. He wasn’t recommending anything, and he certainly wasn’t saying that patients with Parkinson’s or children with cerebral palsy shouldn’t get treatment.
Palin’s first deployment of “death panel” in August 2009 was in reference to the Advanced Care Planning provision of the House health care bill, and she said it would “decide” whether senior citizens and the disabled were “worthy of health care.” This was a lie, and Palin got called out on it, earning herself Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” award.
The IPAB can hardly be thought of as a “death panel.” And they certainly won’t be “rationing healthcare.” What these fifteen people chosen by the president, and confirmed by the US Senate, will do is make recommendations to slow the growth of Medicare spending. Furthermore, they are specifically prohibited by the law from recommending any form of “rationing.” According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
The Independent Payment Advisory Board is an expert body charged with developing and submitting proposals to slow the growth of Medicare and private health care spending and improve the quality of care. The President nominates the board’s 15 members, who require Senate confirmation, for staggered six-year terms. The board must include physicians and other health professionals, experts in health finance, health services researchers, employers, and representatives of consumers and the elderly. To prevent control by special interests, health care providers may not constitute a majority of the board’s membership.
THAT is your infamous “death panel.” They won’t be anonymous (assuming any get appointed to the panel at all given the RWNJs in the Senate who think nothing of blocking appointments of people for reasons that have nothing to do with the person or the position to which they are being appointed), they won’t be rationing your health care (because the ACA specifically prohibits them doing that), and they won’t be deciding who lives and who dies (because that’s something Conservatives dream of being able to do.)
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss death panels, death stars, shooting stars, shooting deaths, Cow Blitzer or anyting else you wish to discuss.