In recent weeks, conservatives have attacked a small provision in the House-proposed health care legislation that would broaden Medicare to cover counseling sessions for seniors who want to consider their end-of-life choices. Last week, Sarah Palin claimed President Obama plans to institute bureaucratic “death panels.” While some conservatives rejected Palin’s terrifying claims as “crazy,” others sought to keep the fear-mongering alive. Fox News pundit Glenn Beck announced he believes it to be “true.” Newt Gingrich also agreed with Palin.
Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein spoke with Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), a member of the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Isakson “co-sponsored 2007’s Medicare End-of-Life Planning Act and proposed an amendment similar to the House bill’s Section 1233 during the Senate HELP Committee’s mark-up of its health care bill.” He told Klein that the “death panel” talk is “nuts”:
KLEIN: How did this become a question of euthanasia?
ISAKSON: I have no idea. I understand — and you have to check this out — I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up. […]
It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.
Isakson, who has also expressed support for a public health care option, has been promoting advance care planning for years. In 2005, while citing the case of Terri Schiavo, Isakson teamed with state lawmakers to publicly sign a personal “Directive for Final Health Care” to encourage Georgians to discuss their personal wishes for end-of-life care. And Isakson isn’t the only GOP senator who supports the provision; Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) “sponsored a virtually identical initiative this spring.”
Political Animal’s Steve Benen concludes: “Assorted wingnuts and Tea Baggers may not believe the administration, Democrats, objective news sources, or the plain black-and-white text of the legislation, but they should at least be willing to consider reality from one of the Senate’s most conservative members.”
In a town hall event today in Lebanon County, PA, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) dismissed a questioner’s concern about this provision as a “vicious, malicious, untrue rumor.” Nobody is going to be “written off just because they have cancer,” he said. Watch it:
,Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), who said last month that health care reform was telling seniors to “drop dead,” also rejected the “death panel” scare tactic. “It doesn’t say that they’re going to receive counseling on euthanasia, that’s not what it says,” Brown-Waite recently told an Orlando radio station.