Even Doctors Believe in Obamacare’s Death Panels


I learned something new this morning. Two things, actually. First, Sarah Kliff points us to a recent study telling us that even a lot of doctors believe that Obamacare institutionalizes death panels:

This is just a survey of head and neck doctors, so maybe they’re just especially ignorant among the MD set. But probably not.

So what else did I learn? Well, Obamacare has never had death panels in the sense of the question above, but it does reimburse physicians for having end-of-life conversations with their patients. You know, so they can decide about things like DNR notices, how much extraordinary care they want, living wills, and so forth. All perfectly sensible, except that it’s what prompted the death panel nonsense in the first place.

And it’s gone. I didn’t know that. Apparently, after the New York Times put it on the front page in 2011, this provision was eliminated. So the yahoos won another victory, and it didn’t stop the death panel talk anyway. Hooray.

UPDATE: Thanks to a tweet from Austin Frakt, I did a little more digging and it turns out that a weakened version of end-of-life counseling remained in the bill and was implemented by a new regulation adopted in 2010:

The final version of the health care legislation, signed into law by President Obama in March, authorized Medicare coverage of yearly physical examinations, or wellness visits. The new rule says Medicare will cover “voluntary advance care planning,” to discuss end-of-life treatment, as part of the annual visit.

Under the rule, doctors can provide information to patients on how to prepare an “advance directive,” stating how aggressively they wish to be treated if they are so sick that they cannot make health care decisions for themselves.

So if a patient asks about end-of-life treatment, doctors are allowed to talk about it and bill the time as an office visit. Death panels!

UPDATE 2: Oh hell. It turns out that a couple of weeks after putting this rule in place, the Obama administration reversed itself. So I was right the first time: Reimbursements for end-of-life counseling have been eliminated after all. Thanks, yahoos.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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