Exclusive: Fred Thompson on health-care reform

In a Hot Air exclusive, radio host and former Senator and presidential candidate Fred Thompson writes about the end-of-life provisions in versions of Barack Obama’s health-care reform plan. Thompson helped to tee up the “end of life counseling” issue several weeks ago, and since then been addressing the various mischaracterizations, which the left has attempted to use to do to citizens’ concerns about the health care issue what “end of life counseling” would do for some Americans. Here is the latest installment.

As the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress grow weary of the voices of opposition that arose from what citizens saw as radical and unnecessary changes to the American healthcare system, it appears some Democrats are looking to hit that “reset” button President Obama seems to want to push every time reality hits him in the face. He may yet be able to reset the healthcare debate, but it’s important to recall how he and his party got into this mess, and why concerned citizens should remain vigilant.

The controversies surrounding the public option and specifically end-of-life counseling provisions in the House health-care bill are what happens when an attempt is made to ram through a complex, thousand-page bill before people have had a chance to read it, much less digest it. The skepticism that people have toward their government has increased from an already disturbingly high level, and based on what we’ve seen from the Obama administration, such skepticism is warranted.

The stated purpose of this health care bill is to provide insurance for the uninsured and “bend the cost curve” downward especially with regard to medical expenses for the elderly. With the defeat of the Obama-Pelosi legislative road map and vote schedule, people had the opportunity to examine the bill and surprise, surprise found provisions in it, such as a provision for end of life counseling that would actually add costs for Medicare patients, and had nothing to do with the stated purpose of the bill.

So the skeptics ask themselves what is the real purpose of this end-of-life provision? Is this just another little service add-on to our already bankrupt Medicare program that, incidentally, President Obama says he is going to squeeze for every savings he can get? Or is this provision a cost savings provision that, even with the additional doctors’ fees, will save the government money to help pay for the 45 million newly insured?

Now let’s see, how could counseling concerning end of life decisions help save the government money?

Apparently it hasn’t taken long for many seniors to figure this one out. For those concerned with the lack of courtesy shown at townhall meetings, imagine what those gatherings would’ve been like if this bill had already been signed into law as the President had originally insisted.

The issue here is not whether a living will or a durable power of attorney are good things, although these fall under the expertise of legal counsel not doctors, doctors’ assistants or nurse practitioners as provided for in the bill. People simply have concerns that some very undesirable results might occur among the hundreds of thousands of cases when a government panel decides what treatments are reimbursable to a government-paid medical practitioner who is giving advice to people who are perhaps at their most vulnerable.

Instead of addressing the reasoning behind this provision, the White House and the left have, true to form, tried to change the subject, construct straw-men and demonize the critics of this provision. Although the critics have been many, the left has given my syndicated radio show credit for initially raising these issues and have portrayed bill opponents as right wing fanatics who claim that the government wants to kill our grandparents. In a August 1 front page Washington Post article voice was given to “Democratic sources” who indicated that critics of the provision in question were little more than fanatics who were grossly distorting the language of the provision.

I responded in a Washington Times op-ed specifically setting forth the questionable language of the provision which I believe clearly justifies the concerns that have been expressed. Incidentally, other commentators sympathetic to the healthcare legislation have now expressed similar concerns about the provision.

None the less, distortions of our concern still occur. On August 12 Barbara Coombs Lee of “Compassion and Choices” posted on Huffington Post and accused critics of claiming that the government has a plot to euthanize people with disabilities. She stated that these claims were first made on my radio show. Then she states that I, apparently in a fit of conscience or enlightenment, changed my mind and said, “Is this a conspiracy to kill off Granny? No. Will seniors be forced to make decisions they don’t want to make? No.”

Lee apparently tired of the subject because she failed to report the next three sentences where I stated, “But will ‘practitioners’ be encouraged to have end of life discussions that include when it might be best for patients to allow their life to end earlier than it has to? Of course. … In the end, it depends on how comfortable one is with having the government in the middle of this process.” She also failed to mention that I suggested the provision just be dropped from the bill entirely, which it has, at least from the Senate version.

While this and indications that the “public option” may not be long for this world may be welcome wins, concerned citizens should not simply pack up and go home. Any bill passed by the Senate must go to conference with the House bill which still contains the troubling provisions. As of today no one knows what a final bill might contain. For those who are concerned about this end-of-life provision I would suggest two questions to put to your elected representatives.

1. If these end-of-life consultations are indeed “voluntary” as proponents claim, then why is the word “voluntary” or other permissive language such as “may” no where to be found in the provision? And why are they not willing to add such language?

2. Why is such a provision contained in a bill that is supposed to be cutting costs for Medicare not adding to them?

The American people shouldn’t so readily be willing to let the politicians in Washington hit the reset button on health care legislation until they are certain of what that final bill actually looks like.