The Real Death Panel

By Robert Romano

“Death panels” received renewed interest over the Christmas season in a New York Times piece by Robert Pear, “Obama Returns to End-of-Life Plan That Caused Stir.” The story outlines a new 691-page regulation that to puts into place end-of-life counseling, called “advanced care planning,” via the Medicare program.

The regulation is provided for “in the case where an injury or illness causes the individual to be unable to make health care decisions”. This is essentially a living will where the patient and the doctor would come to a determination about what to do if a patient became incapacitated. This provision was originally removed in the Senate version of the bill after public outcry emerged, spearheaded by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

That it has reappeared in regulation after being rejected by Congress is troubling, and has renewed worries that such “counseling” could be utilized to coerce seniors into foregoing life-sustaining treatments. That is certainly cause for concern, but may only be the tip of the iceberg for “death panels”.

Enacted into Section 3403 of ObamaCare was the Independent Payments Advisory Board, an entity whose express responsibility is to “reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending”.

The whole purpose of this panel is to diminish the amount of money spent on a per beneficiary basis. To hide that, the bill states that “The proposal shall not include any recommendation to ration health care…or otherwise restricts benefits” or restrict eligibility of citizens to access Medicare. This is slightly misleading. The panel is authorized to make near-binding recommendations on Congress to restrict the growth of Medicare spending per individual.

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