Supposedly non-existent death panels removed from ObamaCare
The New York Times reports:
The Obama administration, reversing course, will revise a Medicare regulation to delete references to end-of-life planning as part of the annual physical examinations covered under the new health care law, administration officials said Tuesday.
The move is an abrupt shift, coming just days after the new policy took effect on Jan. 1.
Many doctors and providers of hospice care had praised the regulation, which listed "advance care planning" as one of the services that could be offered in the "annual wellness visit" for Medicare beneficiaries.
While administration officials cited procedural reasons for changing the rule, it was clear that political concerns were also a factor. The renewed debate over advance care planning threatened to become a distraction to administration officials who were gearing up to defend the health law against attack by the new Republican majority in the House.
In other words, the administration "refudiated" its own regulation. Oh, yes, you have to read down to the eleventh paragraph (a classic case of burying the lede) to find out that it was Sarah Palin who "said in the summer of 2009 that 'Obama's death panel' would decide who was worthy of health care." (She more widely referred to the prospect of rationing, which severe cuts in Medicare and price controls would, in her view, inevitably entail.)
The Times notes that the measure, in a firestorm of criticism, was pulled by the bill but then slipped back in as a regulatory provision. But once again, it proved to be more trouble than it was worth.
The New York Sun editorializes that the about-face should be dubbed "the Palin patch" in honor of the gal who raised the issue in the first place. I would suspect that unlike those who object to "ObamaCare," Palin would gladly accept that designation as a badge of honor.
But the larger issue with regard to ObamaCare is not whether this specific provision would have transformed itself from a voluntary service into a coercive one. Rather, it is whether, as Palin and other conservative critics argued during the debate over the bill, the inevitable result of ObamaCare (indeed, a necessary component of this and other government-directed plans) will be to squeeze providers, eliminate services and ultimately deny coverage to those who in the past would have received care. Last April James Capretta, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former White House budget adviser on health care, wrote:
Look at the recently enacted health-care bill. It includes large cuts in Medicare's payments to hospitals, nursing homes, and others. These cuts aren't calibrated based on quality or efficiency. They are across-the-board cuts hitting every service provider. And the bill also stands up a new independent board that is charged with essentially enforcing a cap on overall Medicare spending beginning in 2015. But the only changes in Medicare the board can recommend to stay within the cap are more reductions in provider-payment rates. The board can't touch the Medicare benefit, much less propose a Ryan-style move toward more choice and market competition. No, the only option is more and deeper price controls.
So, it is entirely predictable where Democrats will turn when they need show their willingness to cut entitlement spending. They will push to broaden the reach of Medicare's price controls to parts of the health system currently beyond their reach, including prescription drugs and the federally subsidized insurance arrangements enacted as part of the new health-care law. It will be one more step toward their ultimate goal, which is a fully government-run health system, with all that entails - including waiting lists and restricted access to care
In the scramble to jam through a bill, the Democrats declined to fully air these and other concerns about the "historic" legislation. We were told the time for debate was "over." Actually, it's just begun.
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