Back To The Future: ‘Death Panel’ Myth Invoked At GOP Town Hall To Scare Voters

ThinkProgress filed this report from Manilus, NY

Facing increasing backlash at home, House Republicans are tap-dancing aroundand away — from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) deeply unpopular plan to end Medicare. But in struggling to justify their overwhelming support for a plan that drastically raises health care costs for seniors, Republicans are now blaming Democrats for employing “political rhetoric” and “Mediscare” tactics to purposefully frighten seniors about the GOP plan.

Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) tried that trick during her town hall meeting on Wednesday in Manilus, NY. Facing a crowd of seniors peppered with “Hands Off My Medicare” signs, Buerkle decried “despicable” attempts by Democrats “to frighten seniors into thinking that [the Ryan plan] is going to take away their Medicare.” Insisting that the plan is in no way a voucher system, Buerkle said, “I am disgusted by what has been said about this and the fear that has been instilled in some citizens.”

Her disgust, however, did not stop her from trying to fearmonger seniors herself. While simultaneously denouncing scare tactics, Buerkle pulled out the GOP’s trusty “death panel” myth — which earned the dubious distinction of Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” — and told her constituents that President Obama’s budget creates a panel that will determine what procedures a senior can have. Outraged at the allegation, her constituents yelled back, “that’s a lie” and noted, “you’re scaring seniors with that”:

BUERKLE: The other thing you don’t hear very often is the fact that the health care bill cut Medicare by $500 billion dollars. It has a real detrimental effect on seniors. And what the president is proposing in his budget, is a panel and they will look at — so if you have to have a procedure done, the panel will make a decision as to whether you can have it or …

CONSTITUENT 1: Death panel!

CONSTITUENT 2: No, no that’s not true. That’s false.

CONSTITUENT 3: You’re scaring seniors with that.

CONSTITUENT2: Yes you are.

BUERKLE: I’m answering this gentleman’s question.

Watch it:

The only panel in Obama’s budget proposal is the IPAB, a panel that has nothing to do with rationing care or making medical decisions for seniors. IPAB is a 15-member commission tasked with making recommendations for lowering Medicare spending if costs increase beyond a certain point — an idea previously supported by Ryan himself. According to law, the panel explicitly cannot “ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums…increase Medicare beneficiary cost-sharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and co- payments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria.”

In conjuring the “death panel” myth, Buerkle is dramatically misinforming seniors while denying the very detrimental impact the GOP’s plan will have on them. Whatever standard for “despicable” she may have, it most certainly applies here.