August 23, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Hysteria over "death panels"

Like many opponents of "Obamacare," I would not be at all surprised if, assuming the President's plan passes, budgetary constraints may some day put pressure on doctors to withhold treatment from terminally ill elderly patients. In a world of finite resources, it's inevitable. On July 30 I even alluded (albeit in an ironic tone) to the possibility of euthanasia under a nationalized health care system. That being said, the notion that Obamacare is going to "pull the plug on Grandma," as Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) suggested, is out of bounds. The last thing we need now is emotionally-charged words to cloud the underlying issues.

In Friday's Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer made a plea for calm reason in the midst of the heated, hyberbolic rhetoric that is being tossed back and forth. He debunks the premises of one of the key elements of the Democrats' proposal, the "living will." He gives several example to prove that the much-ballyhooed legal document is, in almost all real-world situations, "quite beside the point..." In other words, anyone who thinks that convenient administrative procedures can put an end to the agonizing dilemmas faced by families every year is deceiving him- or herself. Krauthammer concludes that while the proposed end-of-life counseling provisions are not "death panels" per se, they do constitute a form of "subtle pressure" to encourage old people to consider embracing the Grim Reaper. Cue the Blue Oyster Cult...

Speaking of which, while I was stuck at a railroad crossing in the small town city of Glencoe (pop. 250), in northern Kentucky last weekend, I saw this amusing sign: "Cash for codgers"!

Cash for codgers

Health care debates

As for the more general question of whether sufficient public support exists for any major health care reform package to pass, it's looking less likely all the time. Like former President Bush's misguided attempt to reform Social Security via privatization (see April 2005), Obama's push in the opposite direction has sparked a fierce reaction. Unless something radical changes very soon, it looks like we are back to square one -- the untenable status quo. A recent News Leader editorial lamented the political polarization which is undermining chances for any meaningful reform: "the far left screamed any compromise on the government plan would mean the death of the legislation. The far right just kept screaming about death panels..." Obviously, I agree with their general approach to this issue, but one sentence really grated on me, so I responded:

The editors ask, "Is anyone going to give me an affordable health insurance plan..." Many if not most other people in America view the basic issue the same (conventional) way, forgetting what John F. Kennedy said: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." If only more people could discard the widespread faulty premises behind the health care debate, such as the notion that the government should make insurance make "more affordable," we might just be able to enact a REAL health care reform that would result in lower costs, less regulation, and more freedom of choice. Think outside the box!

Local health care forum?

In town hall meetings all across the Fruited Plain, Americans are speaking out against Obamacare. Sometimes they make very thoughtful, compelling arguments, which is very inspiring, and sometimes they just rant against the imaginary red herring of totalitarianism. The political atmosphere at present is just not conducive to a free and honest exchange of opinions on the matter, and some of those meetings are more like a food fight. In that context, local Republican activist David Karaffa recently invited Senators Warner and Webb to appear at a forum on health care, as Steve Kijak discussed. I commented:

I read about that in the News Leader, and was left wondering, on whose behalf is Mr. Karaffa making this invitation? Does he hold some position in an organization that I'm not aware of? If not, why on Earth would anyone expect either Webb or Warner to show up for such a forum? Obviously they are both reluctant to make such a public appearance, in light of what has happened across the nation recently, so the whole idea just doesn't make sense to me.

Karaffa, you may recall, was the candidate backed by the GOP "grassroots Base" when a replacement Republican nominee for the 20th House District seat was chosen last month. (Dickie Bell won.)