Care at the end

Complementary goals
After rumors circulated that President Obama’s health-care reform would institute “death panels” for the elderly, Congress quickly abandoned any effort to address end-of-life issues in health-care legislation. It didn’t matter that the rumor-mongering reflected a willful distortion of section 1233 of a House bill that would have let Medicare reimburse physicians for helping patients develop a plan for end-of-life care.

The distortion was clearly motivated by the desire to derail health-care reform at all costs. Those with doubts on that score should consider that, as Amy Sullivan at Time magazine pointed out, in 2003 Republicans passed a prescription drug bill that endorsed end-of-life counseling in virtually the same terms that they now claim will lead to “pulling the plug on Grandma” (to quote Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa).


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