Actually, there’s no panel involved. What we’re talking about here is paying doctors to remind elderly patients during the annual check-up that they might want to leave some written instructions in case they’re incapacitated and eager to avoid a Schiavo-esque family tug of war. You don’t need a doctor for that, in fact; you can print out your state’s standardized living will form here, fill in the appropriate boxes, and then take it to a local notary for signature. But given the public’s entirely justifiable worries about rationing when, not if, ObamaCare fails to bend the cost curve (sorry, Nancy!), any hint of doctors on the state payroll advising frail seniors about their options when it comes to death is pure political poison for The One. And so, less than 10 days after this regulation was first announced, down the toilet it goes — just in time to deny the GOP any related talking points ahead of the ObamaCare repeal vote in the House.
As a wise reptile once said, if Hillary gave Obama one of her balls, they’d both have two.
Medicare coverage for voluntary end-of-life planning was part of the original House version of the overhaul legislation in 2009, but it was dropped after Sarah Palin and other Republicans raised the specter of “death panels” deciding the fate of vulnerable seniors. Those charges were later debunked by several non-partisan fact-checking groups.
End-of-life counseling unexpectedly surfaced again late last year in a Medicare regulation that spelled out what would be covered in a new annual checkup, or wellness visit, authorized by the health care law. The regulation said such voluntary doctor-patient discussions could be part of the annual visit.
The White House official said the administration is now pulling back the language because there wasn’t enough chance for all sides to comment on the change. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss what has turned into an embarrassing episode for the administration.
I’m not sure what the thinking here was inside the administration. Did Obama, Sebelius, and Berwick think they could quietly slide a regulation like this back into the program without it kicking off another “death panels” media swarm? Or was there some miscommunication where Berwick decided to do it and then The One found out and pulled the plug pronto? A very strange reversal in so short a span of time. Maybe it was … simple incompetence? Read Wesley J. Smith’s post at the Corner about how they might have bungled the rulemaking process on this. In that case, they could cure the problem by simply resubmitting the proposed reg and leaving enough time for public comment. But I’ve got a crazy hunch that they won’t, for precisely the reason Smith lays out in his conclusion.
Exit question: I know liberals like to pretend that rationing care for patients who are very sick and/or old is something cooked up in Sarah Palin’s feverish imagination, but didn’t Obama once warn us that eventually we’ll need to have “a very difficult democratic conversation” about cost control vis-a-vis people who are near the end? How come he doesn’t want to have that conversation right now?