Breaking: Finance Committee drops "death panel" provisions from Senate bill

I’m surprised it took them this long. If it had been Palin and the right tossing rhetorical grenades, they might have gone to the mat to keep it in there, but as the ‘Cuda herself noted in her response to Obama last night, it ain’t just conservatives who are freaked out by these provisions. Eugene Robinson and Charles Lane at WaPo also concluded that having “outside” input into end-of-life decisions when the government’s desperate to cut costs could lead to abuse; Mickey Kaus and Camille Paglia have hammered The One about it too. And Obama’s done himself no favors trying to explain what he has in mind, as Tom Maguire reminds us. From an interview in April:

THE PRESIDENT: So that’s where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that’s also a huge driver of cost, right?

I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

DAVID LEONHARDT: So how do you — how do we deal with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that’s part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It’s not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that’s part of what I suspect you’ll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now.

“Independent” guidance to seniors about death with an eye to reducing the lion’s share of health-care spending. What could go wrong?

Tired of the political migraines it’s getting from this, the Finance Committee finally decides to, er, pull the plug:

“On the Finance Committee, we are working very hard to avoid unintended consequences by methodically working through the complexities of all of these issues and policy options,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement. “We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly.”…

“The bill passed by the House committees is so poorly cobbled together that it will have all kinds of unintended consequences, including making taxpayers fund healthcare subsidies for illegal immigrants,” Grassley said. The veteran Iowa lawmaker said the end-of-life provision in those bills would pay physicians to “advise patients about end-of-life care and rate physician quality of care based on the creation of and adherence to orders for end-of-life care.

In theory it could be reintroduced in the conference committee after each chamber passes a bill, but given the outcry over this, why risk an explosion that might queer the whole deal at the 11th hour? This never should have been in the bill in the first place, frankly; the way to encourage living wills (or, say, organ donation) so that people don’t end up undergoing expensive treatments they don’t really want is through a general public education/advertising campaign, not individual meetings with ailing patients terrified that the care they need to stay alive isn’t “cost-effective” in their case. Exit question: This is a win for Palin, but is it also a win for Obama? Now he can reassure Americans that the most worrisome parts of the bill are stripped out.