Monday, August 24, 2009

Republicans Using Seniors for Partisan Purposes

Sen. Grassley is making up excuses as he goes along. He's the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and his group recently decided to exclude end-of-life counseling from the House bill because, in Grassley's words, "We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma."

However, yesterday, on Face the Nation, Grassley admitted that the House bill would not "pull the plug on grandma." He lied and got called on it, so now Grassley is using the cost to justify dumping the counseling provision.
SCHIEFFER: Well, that’s what I was trying to get from you this morning. You’re not saying that this legislation would pull the plug on grandma, you’re just saying there are a lot of people out there who think that it would. Or do you want to say this morning that that is not true, that it won’t do that?

GRASSLEY: It won’t do that, but I wanted to explain why my constituents are concerned about it, and I also want to say that there is an $8 billion cost with that issue, and if you’re trying to save money and you put an $8 billion of doctors giving you some advice at the end of life, doctors are going to take advantage of earning that $8 billion and constituents see that as an opportunity to save some money. [emphasis added]
Grassley is being penny wise and pound foolish. Counseling may cost $8 billion, but according to the Urban Institute, the government could save $90.8 billion over 10 years by better managing end-of-life care.

Also, according to Harvard Science, "in the Archives of Internal Medicine, investigators... found that patients who reported having an EOL conversation had an estimated average of $1,876 in health care expenses during their final week of life, compared with $2,917 for those who didn't, a difference of $1,041, or 36 percent."

Savings aside, a new study offering end-of-life counseling to dying cancer patients found that it improved their mood and quality of life, and the patients who got counseling also lived an average of 5 months longer. Death is scary for most of us, but if counseling improves our mood and helps us enjoy what time we have remaining on earth, that's a good thing.

Besides, Republicans like Grassley (and McCotter) are simply grasping at straws in their opposition because end-of-life counseling is already included in Medicare, and has been since 2005 when Republicans championed the plan.
People aged 65 are entitled to a "Welcome to Medicare" exam that includes a physical and mental assessment, counseling on how Medicare works and what it covers, tips on how to prevent falls at home and the now-controversial counseling. The government would pay for this up to one year after Medicare enrollment. [emphasis added]
The proposed health care legislation that Grassley's Senate Finance Committee dumped would have paid for end-of-life discussions every five years instead of the one time, and it was "milder than legislation sponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., that would have required Medicare patients to have a living will."

Republicans are shameful. They've thrown our senior citizens under the bus for partisan purposes, along with our democracy. Or, as Joe Klein said, "How can you sustain a democracy if one of the two major political parties has been overrun by nihilists?

(Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)


Kvatch said...

Though I'm a little young yet to require end-of-life counseling, I could use some 'end-of-insurance' counseling.

Kathy said...

Kvatch, I'm sorry to hear you no longer have insurance. (No luck on the job hunt, eh?) I've been in your shoes and it's no fun. Every sneeze, every rash and every pain filled me with anxiety as to the cause and concern that I could end up in the hospital.

As for end-of-life counseling, you're never too young to think about the measures you want doctors to take should you end up on life support, etc...