Sunday, November 1, 2009

Frank Luntz, Dissected.

The Dailykos' Jed Lewison cuts up Luntz' new talking points about health care reform:

Now let's see what Luntz has to say about the public option:

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid’s recent insistence on including a massively expensive "public" option (in reality, it is a "government" option) has been met with a resounding thud by a majority of Americans. For some reason, advocates of government-run insurance are intent on including it in health reform even if its inclusion brings down health reform altogether. Whether this insistence on public/gov’t option is driven by ideology or by a misplaced belief in some of the more recent superficial polling on this issue is hard to know – and it’s just plain wrong.

One thing is for sure – anyone who would place their political future in the hands of a single survey question purporting to show that Americans want Washington to jump into the healthcare business probably deserves to lose.


  1. The public option is not "massively expensive." It cuts the deficit. In fact, the more robust it is (Medicare + 5), the more it cuts.
  1. "Met with a resounding thud"? What planet is Luntz on? The public option is one of the most popular elements of health care reform. (See here, here, here, here, and here for just a few examples of the oodles of data showing the public option is popular.)
  1. "Its inclusion brings down health reform altogether." Uh, he's reverse. Multiple polls show that not only do people want the public option to be included in health care reform, they want it even if it means no GOP support. (See here, here, and here.)
  1. Does Luntz really believe the popularity of the public option comes from "a single survey question"? If you don't believe the data cited above, how about this: the public option is so popular that Fox won't even poll on it.

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"Pro-Life" Groups Still Trying to Make Stink Over End of Life Provisions in Health Care

Under the title, "'Death Panels' Return," LifeSiteNews tries to revive the summer's noise about "death panels" and provisions for end of life care consultations in the newly announced health care reform bill:

They're back. The provisions on advanced-planning directives labeled "death panels" by concerned observers have re-emerged in the final version of the US House of Representatives health-care reform bill. Moreover, the bill also lacks protective language that would prevent reimbursement of physicians counseling assisted suicide as a legitimate "end-of-life" option in states like Washington and Oregon.

Section 240 of H.R. 3962 "Affordable Health Care for America Act" requires insurance companies offering a "qualified health benefits plan" on the health insurance exchange to provide information related to "end-of-life planning" to enrolled individuals.

Although the section stipulates that advance directives "shall not promote suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing," none of the terms are defined in the bill. That poses a problem since some states like Oregon and Washington have laws legalizing physician-assisted suicide, but these states employ different terms.

Oregon instead has opted for the terms "physician-assisted death" or "physician aid in dying" as substitutes for "physician assisted suicide" after the pro-euthanasia group Compassion & Choices (the former Hemlock Society) asked the state's health and human services department for the language change. The state of Washington has also followed suit.

On that basis, a huge loophole could emerge through H.R. 3962, by which the distribution of "end of life" materials could also include information about assisted suicide options in states such as Oregon and Washington. The bill makes clear that nothing in that section should be construed to preempt a patient's decision to "withhold or withdraw of medical treatment or medical care" or to "withhold or withdraw of nutrition or hydration." The bill also makes clear that sec. 240 shall not be "construed to preempt or otherwise have any effect on State laws regarding advance care planning, palliative care, or end-of-life decision-making."

Yet, anyone familiar with the Death with Dignity laws in Oregon or Washington knows that a candidate for aid in dying must request it; doctors are precluded from suggesting it to any patient.

Further, attempting to prevent the elderly or terminal from having choice in how they die, as opponents to end of life counseling are doing, is a great disservice to our dying patients.

Just as these "pro-life" groups are working to further limit access to abortion and reproductive health services for women by protesting the health care reform bill, they are working to deny the elderly and terminal choice in dying. They are on the wrong side of public opinion, current state and federal laws, and on the wrong side of the debate over rights to health care for all.

For additional commentary from others who are making stuff up: Wesley J. Smith at First Things mongers the fear and asks, "Could assisted suicide promoters be paid to fill out death request forms?"

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Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Working to Skew Polls of Canadian Public Opinion on Assisted Suicide.

The Guardian today reports that the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, headed by Alex Shadenberg, no stranger to readers of this blog, has been working overtime to gather and direct international support for a "no" vote on Canada's proposal to change assisted suicide laws, thus skewing the poll to misrepresent Canadian public opinion:

A powerful umbrella organisation is mobilising opponents of euthanasia around the world to swamp British internet polls so they record comprehensive "no" votes against proposed changes in mercy-killing laws.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, which has offices in London, Canada and California, co-ordinated a "no" campaign against proposed changes to right-to-die laws in several online polls.

Independent opinion polls show a clear majority of the public back a change in the law. But last month EPC supporters deluged a poll by Bath University ahead of a speech by Lord Joffe, who failed to bring in a private member's bill allowing doctors the right to prescribe drugs that a terminally ill patient in severe pain could use to end their own life.

Of the 4,027 people who voted, 3,502 – 87% – said there should be no change in the laws on assisted dying. It transpired that around 3,000 "anti" votes came from the US and Canada. An online poll for the London

Run by Alex Schadenberg in Canada, the EPC has close links to the UK anti-euthanasia body, Care Not Killing. Intercepted emails from Schadenberg, seen by the

Schadenberg did not return calls.

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More Criticism for the USCCB's Attempts to Amend Health Care Bill.

Some Catholic and "pro-life" groups are criticizing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for their efforts this weekend to encourage parishioners to advocate for changes in the proposed health care reform bill. Many feel the USCCB has not gone far enough, like American Life League's Judie Brown:

"But we remind the
USCCB that Catholics cannot stop at opposing abortion and demanding conscience protection. Where is the USCCB on the health care reform bills’ potential to fund Planned Parenthood, to use our tax dollars to indoctrinate children with sex education in schools, to fund euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, human embryonic stem cell research, contraception and health care rationing?
"All of these things are present in all of the current versions of the health care bill. None of these are acceptable according to Catholic teaching. All Catholics are duty bound to reject 'health care reform' if it contains any of the above grievous offenses against human life and personhood.
"Catholics need to know why, at every level, these proposals are fraught with death and destruction of the soul.
"Finally, Catholics need to know that the USCCB, acting of itself, carries no authority to instruct the bishops on the governance of their flocks. It is imperative that each and every bishop make a public statement condemning these health care proposals until they exclude any provisions for:
- abortion
- human embryonic stem cell research
- contraceptives
- rationed care
- in vitro fertilization
- euthanasia
- sex education in schools

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November is National Hospice Month.

From FosterFollyNews:

November is National Hospice Month and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization marks the 26th anniversary of National Hospice Month by reporting that more than 950,000 dying Americans received care from the nation’s 3,300 hospice providers last year.

This represents an increase of 22 percent since 2001. The median length of service for a hospice patient has risen from 20.5 days to 22 days over the same two year period.

“Patients and families are becoming better advocates for their own health care and the medical community increasingly is recognizing the value of hospice when dealing with a life-limiting illness,” remarked J. Donald Schumacher, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “It gratifying to see more and more people understand what hospice providers have known for many years—that compassionate, high quality care for the dying and their families is available.”

“Most people think hospice is what you do when there’s nothing left to do,” Schumacher continued. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Hospice provides a wide range of services to the family and patient that maximize quality of life and help people live as fully as possible, on their terms.”

Hospice uses an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals and trained volunteers to provide pain-management, symptom control, psychosocial support, and spiritual care to patients, and their families. While a patient must have an expected prognosis of six months or less, hospice care can be provided for six months or longer, depending on the course of the illness. Many Americans do not understand this and wait unnecessarily before seeking care.

Hospice is a covered benefit under Medicare, Medicaid in most states, and most private insurance plans and HMOs.

Additional information about hospice and palliative care, including downloadable brochures for consumers is available at,, or call the NHPCO HelpLine at 1-800-658-8898.