Thursday, November 5, 2009

Conservatives Targeting AARP.

Last week I wrote about the new focus of conservative ire on AARP because of the organization's support of the health care reform bill. (The bill has also formally been endorsed by the AMA.)

Yet LifeNews continues to misconstrue the contents of the bill and to rally "pro-life" advocates against "euthanasia":

The nation's most prominent organization for seniors is expected to formalize its endorsement of the House health care reform bill today. The backing from AARP for the bill, which includes massive abortion funding, comes despite concerns about death panels and assisted suicide.

The House is expected to vote Saturday on the bill and, when it does, it will have the backing of the powerful seniors group.

"We started this debate more than two years ago with the twin goals of making coverage affordable to our younger member and protecting Medicare for Seniors," said AARP CEO Barry Rand in a written statement.

"We've read the Affordable Health Care for America Act and we can say with confidence that it meets those goals with improved benefits for people in Medicare and needed health insurance market reforms to help ensure every American can purchase affordable health coverage," Rand added.

But, pro-life advocates can say with confidence that the bill also presents a myriad of concerns for seniors.

The new bill, H.R. 3962, contains the controversial "death panels" panned in the previous legislation and direct taxpayer-funded promotion of assisted suicide in the states where it is currently legal.

HR 3962 contains two clear end-of-life provisions -- including one that requires insurance companies to distribute advance directives and other planning tools to all who are insured on the new government-run exchange.

The other allows Medicare reimbursement for optional end-of-life planning consultation.

Both provisions appear to exclude assisted suicide from the consultations and advance directives, but those exclusions have no meaning in the Washington and Oregon (and possibly soon in Montana) where assisted suicides are legal.

There, state law says that "death with dignity," the legal terms in those states for assisted suicide, does not actually constitute assisted suicide.

In both states, state law says actions under the assisted suicide statute "shall not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing or homicide, under the law."

As a result, in Washington and Oregon, Medicare reimbursed consultations could involve assisted suicide planning and advance directives or other planning materials distributed by mandate could include assisted suicide options. Thus, taxpayer-funded information provided under both provisions will include assisted suicide options in those states where it is legal.

If Steven Ertelt or other conservatives were to read the Death with Dignity bills in Oregon and Washington, they would find that both require that the patient bring up Death with Dignity. Doctors are prohibited from doing so. And in my prior blog, I note some of the issues, using GeriPal's post, of how our current system locks the elderly and the terminal into methods of end of life care that they don't want, that are costly, and that are inflexible.

Best practice panels, so-called "death panels" guarantee a standard of patient care that is currently unregulated. We accept that the government protect us from unsafe work standards, water, manufacturing practices and other corporate excesses. Why not regulate health care? And elders are most susceptible to a bloated and paternal medical industry.

Flaming fear among elders by protesting AARP and other senior organizations and by denouncing a bill that will only improve senior care is wreckless, irresponsible, and inhumane. The use of lies to feed care concerns among seniors only hurts them.

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