ThinkProgress filed this report from a town hall in Carroll, Iowa.
Politifact’s 2009 “Lie of the Year” was that the landmark health care reform legislation contained a clause authorizing “death panels.” The smear, started by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), was propagated by other Republicans, including long-time Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who warned that the bill could “pull the plug on grandma.”
At a town hall in Carroll, Iowa, on Monday, Grassley repeated the falsehood that the health care reform law would lead to “rationing” and result in seniors not getting the care they need. One Iowa constituent, however, challenged Grassley’s characterization.
Sharon Gruber politely told the senator that what the law actually does is “move away from [paying for] procedures and going to [paying for] outcomes.” In a surprise twist, Grassley not only agreed with the woman’s assessment that the law simply shifts to a pay-for-outcome model, but the Iowa senator actually reversed course and agreed that “what you say is absolutely right and should be done,” less than two minutes after calling the provision “rationing.”
GRASSLEY: The reason why I think you have to worry about this panel rationing, or leading to rationing, is because presently, health care costs go up about two to three times the rate of inflation. Their goal is to not have health care costs after they kick in more than 1.5 percent the rate of inflation. So where’s that going to come from? That’s going to come from not reimbursing doctors, hospitals, etc. as much, and then that’s going to lead to people deciding, “if you’re over 80 years old, should you have a knee replaced?” Whereas nowadays there’s no question about it.
GRUBER: I think that what they’re trying to do is move away from the fact that doctors and hospitals are paid on the procedure that’s used. [...] We’ve gotta get the fraud out of the system because that’s where a lot of the costs go. And this is part of it. They’re looking to move away from procedures and going to outcomes, from what I understand.
GRASSLEY: And that’s a very good thing to do. But they’re still limited to the decisions they’re making to be within 1.5 percent over inflation. But what you say is absolutely right and should be done. Not everything in the president’s health care reform bill is bad.
Though Grassley told Gruber that “[n]ot everything in the president’s health care reform bill is bad,” it’s important to remember that the Iowa senator joined every one of his Senate Republican colleagues in voting to repeal the entire bill in February, including the shift to a pay-for-outcome model, a ban on preexisting conditions, and increased funding for community health centers.
ThinkProgress spoke with Gruber after the event to get her reaction. She said she was “very disappointed” in Grassley for promoting the myth of rationing and death panels. Gruber noted that in the past he had “tended to be above [...] these talking points,” but that was no longer the case: