Monday, August 31, 2009

America's Seniors and Health Insurance Reform

Protecting Coverage and Strengthening Medicare

If you are on Medicare, or if you will soon be on Medicare, you owe it to yourself to read the following senior report.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Last Whirlpool Refrigerator

The last two refrigerators we had were manufactured by Whirlpool, here in the United States.

The South Bend Tribune this morning reports that Whirlpool will be shutting down their Whirlpool refrigerator plant in Evansville, Indiana in 2010 which will cut 1,100 production jobs.

Whirlpool is moving this refrigerator production plant to Mexico. They're doing this not for productivity, but simply for cheap labor.

Whirlpool has provided me with my last refrigerator. In my opinion, Whirlpool has become a rotten, disloyal, unpatriotic company.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Are there any Republicans on Medicare Part B? Surely Not!

Republicans have been claiming that they don't want health care reform, particularly a government program.

Now since they've paid into Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) through their Social Security taxes, I doubt if they will refuse Medicare Part A when they become eligible.

I wonder if any Republicans are getting Medicare Part B (medical insurance). I doubt it since it's optional and they would have to pay a premium to the government for it. Surely they wouldn't want a government program would they? In fact, if they were true to their principles, there wouldn't be any Republicans on Medicare Part B. Do you think there are any Republicans or any others who claim to be 'anti-government program' on Medicare Part B? Surely not.

In other words, there aren't any of these people who claim to be anti-government speaking with forked tongues are there?

Right Wingers......they are a funny lot.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Seniors to Benefit from Health Care Reform

ALLIANCE FOR RETIRED AMERICANS

New Report Shows Seniors to Benefit

from Health Care Reform

Retiree Leader Calls for End to “Scare Tactics”

The following statement was issued today by Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, in response to a new report, America’s Seniors and Health Insurance Reform: Protecting Coverage and Strengthening Medicare, issued today by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Today’s report shines a bright light on why retirees have a lot to gain from health reform. Moreover, it shows the wholly unacceptable medical and financial consequences of inaction.

“According to the study, if no action is taken, Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket costs will soon eat up more than one-third of a retiree’s Social Security benefits. A typical older couple would need to save $300,000 for medical bills not covered by Medicare.

“I hope that deeply disturbing findings such as these will move the health care debate away from divisive, insurance industry-backed scare tactics and toward swift passage of a health care bill that will help older Americans.

“Health reform is an opportunity to close the Medicare Part D ‘doughnut hole,’ lower prescription drug costs, help early retirees afford health care coverage, and assist middle-class families with the costs of long-term care. A strong public plan option will hold insurance companies accountable and keep their premiums and business practices in check.

“Medicare is a great American success story – it has reduced senior poverty by two-thirds. Today’s report shows how health reform can both expand Medicare’s benefits for seniors, and also strengthen Medicare’s finances by eliminating wasteful taxpayer subsidies to the big insurance companies.

“I urge Congress to act swiftly to pass a health care reform bill that helps Americans of all ages. The dire consequences of inaction give us no other choice.”

The Alliance for Retired Americans is a national organization that advocates for the rights and well being of over 3.5 million retirees and their families.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

'Amazing grace'

‘Amazing grace’

An encounter with Great Britain’s National Health System
By the Rev. Peter Storey

I’ve been following the U.S. debate on health care with a growing sense of bewilderment and despair. Arguments raised by opponents seem to be quite bizarre and out of touch with reality and utterly anti-poor.

For most of my life, one of my heroes has been Aneurin Bevan, the feisty Labour socialist from the dirt-poor coal-fields of Wales, who was the only member of the House of Commons who could best Winston Churchill in debate. Bevan did so on a number of occasions.

As the Minister of Health in Clement Atlee’s post-World War II Labour Cabinet, Bevan was the architect of Great Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). He fought it through in the face of enormous odds and bitter opposition and disinformation from Churchill’s Tories.

Of course, Bevan might be the wrong example to lift up in a debate in the U.S., the only country where even the trade unionists are capitalists! But I have quoted him many, many times: “Private charity can never be a substitute for organized justice.”

British national pastime

The important thing to note is that 60 years later, not one in 100 Brits would part with the NHS. Criticism, whining and moaning about the NHS are a British national pastime, but they know better than to let anyone tamper with it.

Although I’m from South Africa, I have a personal anecdote to relate about the NHS.

Back in the bad days in South Africa, I had to attend an anti-apartheid conference in White Plains, N.Y. The embargo by the U.S. Congress prevented direct flights from South Africa to the United States. I had to travel via London, where I stopped off for a day.

I had left Johannesburg under enormous stress. While hefting my heavy bag across a London street, I collapsed and lost consciousness.

High-care ward

I came to in an ambulance, and a little later found myself in the high-care ward of a London hospital.

The specialist believed I had suffered a heart attack. I was to remain hooked up to all sorts of monitors while they ran tests. After 24 hours in high care, you can imagine my relief when I was told that the tests were negative.

Whatever had happened to me, it no longer appeared to be a heart attack. I was told that if I passed a stress test, I could go.

Relief gave way to a new anxiety when I began to anticipate what all this was going to cost.

The stress test went well. The doctor smiled and said, “You can go now.”

When I asked where I should go to check out, he shook his head and smiled again. “No,” he said, “you can just go.”

It was my turn to shake my head, arguing that surely I owed them.

“This is National Health,” the doctor said. “You owe nothing.”

I reminded him that I was not a British taxpayer, but a foreigner.

Glad to be of assistance

I was flabbergasted when he replied: “That doesn’t matter at all. We’re glad to have been of assistance. You should get on your way.”

The doctor might as well have made the sign of the cross and said, “Go in peace.” His words were like a benediction. I walked out of that hospital quite overwhelmed with gratitude.

In the taxi to Heathrow I told myself that I had just experienced a gift of sheer grace — amazing grace — all because in the 1950s, the British people had embraced the simple notion that no sick person should be denied treatment because they could not pay.

In Great Britain, health was not a commodity to be bought and sold. It was the right of every citizen. The burden of providing it was shared by all according to their means.

My experience had echoes of the early Church in Acts 2. I believed this simple British notion was one that must make Jesus very happy. It certainly did that for me.

Another thought came to me some hours later when I landed at JFK airport in New York and reported three days late at the anti-apartheid conference: “What if I had collapsed in New York? What if I had woken in the High Care ward of a New York hospital?” The thought of how many years it would have taken me to pay the bill was scary.

There’s a lot to be said for grace.

Reprinted by permission, Faith in Action, United Methodist General Board of Church & Society, August 24, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Only through a just system of health care

From the dawn of human history God has created loving souls and blessed each with the 'imago dei' - the very image and likeness of God. By grace God endows those in the health care professions with the means and methods of healing. Only through a just system of health care can Jesus' promise of life abundant (John 10:10b) be visited upon all persons.

--The Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of the Churches of christ in the USA (2002)

The UK's National Health Service

Opponents to President Obama’s healthcare reform plan have circulated a number of serious lies and gross distortions about the UK’s National Health Service to defend their own interests and scupper plans that will help the 47 million Americans currently without healthcare cover.

What is the NHS?

The UK’s National Health Service provides a wide range of healthcare services - everything from antenatal screening and routine treatments for coughs and colds to open heart surgery, accident and emergency treatment and end-of-life care to the whole UK population of 60million people.

Most importantly it is free for people to access healthcare and 1 million patients are seen every 36 hours.

The NHS funded by general taxation and is organised and run at a local, regional level. It is one of the most efficient, most egalitarian and most comprehensive in the world, looking after everyone from their birth to their death. It is an institution supported by every major political party in Britain and the British population, who have been responding to the Republican attacks on the NHS on Twitter, at #welovetheNHS by posting their own stories of how the NHS has saved and improved the lives of them and their loved ones, for free.

LIE 1: that older people do not receive treatment on the NHS

Ted Kennedy, 77, would not be treated for his brain tumour if he was in Britain because he is too old (Charles Grassley, Republican senator from Iowa)

In England, anyone over 59 years of age cannot receive heart repairs, stents or bypass because it is not covered as being too expensive and not needed, (an anonymously authored, but widely circulated, email).

THE TRUTH
There is no ban on anyone of any age receiving any treatment – indeed, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of age when providing services. Professor Peter Weissberg, the medical director of the British Heart Foundation, an independent charity, says that “Growing numbers of patients over 65 with heart conditions are having surgery, including valve repairs and heart bypass surgery”. Additionally, the average age at which people have a bypass operation has risen from 58 in 1991 to 66 in 2008.Decisions over whether to recommend and perform surgery or prescribe drugs are clinical decisions, taken on a case by case basis on what is best for each patient.

LIE 2: officials decide the ‘worth’ of each person’s life, denying treatment to those who are deemed ‘worthless’.

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking [who has Motor Neurone Disease, a degenerative illness] wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless." (Investors Business Daily)

Government health officials in England have decided that $22,750 (£14,000) is what six months' life is worth. Under their socialised system, if a medical treatment costs more, you're out of luck (Club for Growth)

THE TRUTH
Professor Stephen Hawking lives and works in Britain and received NHS treatment as recently as April 2009. He has responded to the above claim by saying that he “wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived”.

In Britain, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) decides whether new drugs represent value for money for the NHS. There has been a gross misrepresentation of its role; Nice assesses new drugs by looking at the amount and quality of extended life it is hoped the patient will gain by looking at the medical evidence. The current ceiling is £30,000 for a full course of treatment but exceptions are made.

LIE 3: rationing means people are not able to access the treatment they need for serious conditions.

In Britain, 40% of cancer patients are never able to see an oncologist; there is explicit rationing for services such as kidney dialysis, open heart surgery and care for the terminally ill. (Conservatives for Patients' Rights)

The British NHS "does not allow" women under 25 to receive screening for cervical cancer (Jim DeMint, Republican senator from South Carolina)

THE TRUTH
There is no ‘rationing’ for services such as kidney dialysis, open heart surgery or end of life care.

The above claim about cancer is from an out of date, 15 year old study. In 2000 a 10 year programme was launched, setting key targets for improvement. The National Audit Office, which is responsible for analyzing how effectively the government spends money, reported in 2005 that 99.2%of people who are referred by their doctor with suspected cancer see a specialist within 2 weeks and 89.9% of patients diagnosed with cancer begin treatment within 31 days.

There is an ‘End of Life Care Strategy’ that “aims to improve access to high quality care for adults approaching the end of life. This care should be available wherever the person might be, ie at home, in a care home, in hospital, in a hospice, or somewhere else.”

All women over 25 are routinely and regularly invited for a cervical smear. Any woman, at any age, who presents symptoms of cervical cancer will receive a smear test if their doctor thinks it is appropriate.

Source: Workers Uniting (The Global Union)

Canadian Message to Americans

Monday, August 24, 2009

Health Care Injustice

"Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Every person has the right to adequate health care

"Every person has the right to adequate health care. This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all persons, who are made in the image of God....Our call for health care reform is rooted in the biblical call to heal the sick and to serve 'the least of these,' the priorities of justice and the principle of the common good. The existing patterns of health care in the United States do not meet the minimal standard of social justice and the common good."

-Resolution on Health Care Reform, U.S. Catholic Bishops (1993)

Friday, August 21, 2009

We Were There

Who can ever doubt the importance and contribution of women to the Labor Movement in the United States. We all owe women a debt of gratitude.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Retirees Support Health Insurance Reform

Retiree Leader Urges Florida Seniors to Support Health Insurance Reform

Outlines New Benefits for Retirees, Denounces Scare Tactics


Saying “retirees have a lot to gain from health care reform,” Alliance for Retired Americans President Barbara J. Easterling today told an audience of over 700 South Florida seniors that national health insurance reform, “will make it easier for retirees to see a doctor, get a prescription filled, and afford long-term care.”

At a Del Ray health care forum sponsored by the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, Easterling said, “I know that many older people are scared and confused, fearful of the change that health reform may bring.
But this isn’t because they are bad people. They are scared and confused because lobbyists and places like Fox News are spending millions of dollars - and spreading millions of lies - to preserve the status quo. Why? Because they are the winners in our current system, a broken system that puts profits ahead of people, the special interests ahead of the public interest.”

Easterling urged older Americans to “stay together in the face of the big insurance companies trying to scare seniors, misleading them with lies and predictions of doom. These scare tactics are false, but not enough people know this…. make it your mission to help separate fact from fiction in the health care debate.”

Easterling outlined how health care reform will: close the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole,” lower prescription drug costs, help early retirees afford health care coverage, and assist middle-class families with the costs of long-term care. Supporting a strong public plan option, Easterling said it would hold insurance companies accountable and “keep their premiums and business practices in check.”

Reaching across generations, Easterling urged Florida seniors to, “think about your children and grandchildren and your nieces and nephews. How are they doing in these difficult times? What would happen if they lost their job? At a time of sky-high premiums and unfair rules against pre-existing conditions, would they be able to get health insurance?”

# # #

The Alliance for Retired Americans is a national organization that advocates for the rights and well being of over 3.5 million retirees and their families.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Health Insurance Reform Facts for Retirees and “Pre-Medicare” Retirees


Health Insurance Reform Facts for Retirees and “Pre-Medicare” Retirees

  • There is no health insurance reform proposed before Congress that would create death panels, allow euthanasia, ration care or that directly addresses government-funded abortion or birth control. Anything else you hear is a myth – a scare tactic to divert attention from the real issue.
  • Even if you have employer- or union-provided health care as a retiree, health insurance reform matters to you. Besides helping those who aren’t as lucky, reform should help cut costs across our entire health care system, making it better and more affordable for all of us.
  • Medicare was created to make sure Americans didn’t have to choose between saving their health and spending all they had saved. It provided for those with the burdens and pains of untreated illnesses. Now, we find ourselves in a critical moment, facing strangely familiar syndromes of societal suffering, and are called to find a way to provide health care for all Americans.
  • Health care reform means strengthening Medicare by slowing spending, cleaning up waste and taking control of rising costs that are crippling our entire health care system. If we fail at health insurance reform, Medicare cuts are up next.
  • Before Medicare, growing old meant poverty, disability, and going without health insurance. Before Medicare, only half of all older Americans had health insurance and 35 percent of seniors lived in poverty. Today, levels of poverty among seniors have dropped by two-thirds and all Americans 65 and older can get health insurance through the Medicare program.
We believe real reform will include:

• A robust public plan to compete with private insurers and help drive down costs,
• Real “pay or play” – covering all employers
• Relief for companies and unions that provide pre-Medicare retiree coverage, and
• No taxation of health benefits either directly or indirectly.

Regarding relief for companies and unions that provide pre-Medicare retiree coverage, here are
some helpful facts:
• Many Americans between the ages of 55-64 – the “bridge years” – struggle with declining income and health but with more limited access to health care at increasingly higher costs;
• Retirees in this age group who do have employer-sponsored coverage have been forced to shoulder an ever-larger share of the cost of health care.
• A good way to help keep employer-sponsored coverage for retires in the 55-64 age group is to help shoulder some of these higher health costs by having a temporary reinsurance program.
• Currently about four million pre-Medicare retirees receive health insurance coverage from their former employers or a VEBA (Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association.) A reinsurance program will encourage employers and VEBAs to continue this coverage, by providing assistance with some of their catastrophic expenses.
(A reinsurance program would provide significant relief to employers and VEBAs so that they can keep providing insurance to this vulnerable pre- Medicare retiree population.)

• A temporary reinsurance program should reimburse for significant claims. The House and
Senate HELP bill provide for an 80 percent reimbursement for health claims ranging from
$15,000 to $90,000.
• Importantly, the reinsurance provision rightly provides for a dedicated funding mechanism -
- the “Retiree Reserve Trust Fund” – that is funded with $10 billion. This provides the certainty needed to make the temporary measure work.

Visit www.usw.org and the Alliance for Retired Americans’ Web site, www.retiredamerican.org, for more information on why health insurance reform is important to retirees, and for facts addressing common myths.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Latest on Health Care Reform


August 13, 2009
The Latest on Health Care Reform

Tired of battling over health care at every contract negotiation? Sick of worrying about what happens to your health care if you lose your job? Think our system costs too much, covers too little and excludes too many? If you do, you’re not alone. The good news is that we are finally close to reforming this failed system.

Health Care Reform is Underway – Before Congress adjourned for their August recess, the House of Representatives finished drafting a bill – H.R. 3200 – that would go a long way towards what we need to see for reform. Those who have employer-provided care can keep their same coverage; those who don’t will have access to affordable care.

Key aspects of H.R. 3200 include:

A public health insurance option that would compete with private insurer plans to drive down costs,

An employer “pay or play” requirement that makes sure free-rider companies – those that don’t pay for employee’s health care coverage who ultimately dump their health care costs on the rest of us – either provide insurance or pay their fair share to help fund coverage,

Curbs to insurance company abuses so that pre-existing conditions will be covered and discriminatory practices are no longer tolerated,

A temporary reinsurance program which would help employers and voluntary employees' beneficiary associations (VEBAs) cover health care for retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare by providing assistance with catastrophic expenses, thereby encouraging employers and VEBAs to continue providing retiree health care coverage,

• And, H.R. 3200 will not tax health care benefits that we receive through our jobs.


Getting a Real Solution to the Health Care Crisis Won’t be Easy – The Senate has not yet finished their work on a bill, and it could be weaker than the House bill. Meanwhile, corporate-backed anti-health care reform and anti-government groups have begun an aggressive – and at times violent – smear campaign to stop this needed reform. Their goal is to create the impression that a movement against health reform exists, but in reality they are a small, misled fringe that’s frightened because we’re so close to real reform.

Make sure to educate yourself on the facts as this debate continues!

USW Rapid Response (412) 562-2291 http://www.uswrr.org

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Facts Matter

The Washington Post has a concise breakdown of what the House health care reform proposal includes for Medicare beneficiaries:

Comprehensive health-care legislation approved by three House committees include changes to the Medicare program for 45 million elderly and disabled people. The bills:

– Extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by five years.

– Waive all co-payments on preventive services.

– Provide 50 percent discounts on brand-name prescriptions in the coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole.” Eliminate the gap entirely within 12 years.

– Eliminate 14 percent in “overpayments” to Medicare Advantage plans over 10-year period; pay $10 billion in bonuses to high-quality plans.

– Increase reimbursements to primary-care doctors, general practitioners and psychiatrists by 5 percent.

– Reduce payments to skilled-nursing homes and rehabilitation centers by $15 billion over the next decade.

– Pay medical professionals for counseling patients about end-of-life options.

– Reduce payments to providers that have patients with high hospital readmission rates.

– Grant biologic therapies 12 to 14 years of market protection before a generic version can seek Food and Drug Administration approval.

– Cancel a proposed 21 percent cut in physician reimbursements, estimated to cost $228 billion over 10 years.

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office, House Ways and Means Committee, Kaiser Family Foundation

The Senate Special Committee on Aging has prepared a two-page Fact and Fiction analysis, which should be mandatory reading for Town Hall questioners. Some of the issues it addresses include:

The House health care reform bill would require doctors to give seniors “suicide counseling.”

This is FICTION.

The House proposal does not tell seniors how to die, nor urge doctors to do so. The proposal empowers seniors to voluntarily make their own decisions on end-of-life care in advance, in consultation with a trusted physician. Part of planning for the future could be creating a living will that includes your wishes for the end of life, so that your instructions are followed to the letter. No matter what your wishes are, the health reform proposal will not take any of those choices away from you. In fact, it helps to make sure that your choices are respected.

Health care reform will lead to rationing.

This is FICTION.

There’s no bill or proposal in Congress that would ration health care. We do need to reexamine the way that we pay for health care in this country. Thus far, the proposals are focused on paying for value and quality of care over volume of services. Under our current system, some providers are incentivized to run duplicative tests and over-order expensive treatment, though these procedures might not be what the patient needs to get better. An improved health care system will lead to smarter health care choices, but that does not mean it will limit your options. If you have private insurance now, your care is already limited when your insurance company decides what procedures to pay for and which doctors to cover. Insurance companies can deny you coverage if you have a pre-existing condition. And they can make payments and premiums prohibitively high for American families. Congress is working to minimize these denials and barriers to quality health care.

Source: NCPSSM

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Wing nuts gone wild

Alliance for Retired Americans calls for civility

For Immediate Release
August 6, 2009

Indiana Retirees Call for Civil Town Hall Meetings About Health Insurance Reform

Many Seniors Fear That Rational Discussion is Not Possible
in Current Environment


Members of the Indiana Alliance for Retired Americans are calling for civil discourse during town hall meetings with Members of Congress this month, amidst stories of town halls across the country erupting into chaos during the health care debate.

As Members of Congress return home to their districts for the August recess, there are widespread reports of aggressive, bullying opponents of health insurance reform intentionally taking over meetings and creating an intimidating, hostile environment for others. There are even reports that some Members of Congress have had to cancel their town halls because of the threat of disruptions.

“Indiana seniors are offended at this subversion of the democratic process,” said Elmer Blankenship, president of the Indiana Alliance for Retired Americans. “These disruptions are succeeding in their goal of making it impossible to have a reasonable conversation. Older citizens, some of them already in poor health, should not have to scream at the top of their lungs in order to be heard above the chaos. Republican leaders should ask these people to calm down and let constituents talk to their elected officials. Those who are causing the disruptions are doing a great disservice to older Americans.”

“Reasonable people can disagree, but not if the atmosphere is poisoned,” Blankenship, continued. “Typical seniors and ordinary, levelheaded people will not be able to have a conversation with their elected officials about the issues that most affect their lives under the current conditions.”

During the health care debate in Congress, members of the Indiana Alliance for Retired Americans are advocating a pro-retiree agenda that includes creating a “public plan” option that provides affordable coverage and puts healthy pressure on private insurance companies to keep their premiums and business practices in check. Indiana seniors also call for stopping attempts to tax health care benefits, which could lead to the loss of coverage, especially for retirees, as well as closing the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole.”

For more information on the Indiana Alliance for Retired Americans, contact Elmer Blankenship, (317) 270-4671.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Talk-show falsehoods

Hysteria masks value of ‘Page 425’
By the Rev. Jackson Day

In 1881 as my great-grandfather lay dying, he called his children in one by one to give them his final words. My grandfather, then age 9, never forgot that his father was able to die at home surrounded by family.

For many of us, our greatest fear about our own passing is that our health-care system will keep us from dying such a death. Our fear is that we will end our days with tubes and electrodes connected to every orifice and patch of skin, and with our minds sedated into oblivion.

I had no idea how great a gift my father gave us for his last days until we actually needed to turn to his living will.

I had no idea how great a gift my father gave us for his last days until we actually needed to turn to his living will. He had requested no extraordinary measures. Each lawyerly clause describing a circumstance in which he wanted no extraordinary care concluded in clear English prose affirming the will of God that no one could mistake: “and then let me die.”

As my sister and I navigated the painful, confusing interactions with hospitals and doctors, our father’s living will gave us clarity. We who loved him and desired above all to do what he wanted when he could no longer speak for himself, had something tangible, written, signed, to rely on.

Widespread agreement

Widespread agreement exists that such end-of-life planning is good. The 2004 United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body, adopted a resolution called “Faithful Care for Persons Suffering & Dying”. It was readopted last year, and is Resolution 3205 in our 2008 Book of Resolutions. The resolution states that The United Methodist Church acknowledges that God is sovereign over life and death, and:

Care for the dying is an aspect of our stewardship of the divine gift of life. As human interventions, medical technologies are only justified by the help that they can give. Their use requires responsible judgment about when life-sustaining treatments truly support the goals of life, and when they have reached their limits.

The United Methodist Church acknowledges that God is sovereign over life and death.

Resolution 3205 reflects the work of our theologians and pastoral counselors. It has provided an ethical support for pastors, United Methodist health-care personnel, and families as they wrestle with the painful realities of facing a loved one’s last days.

In 1990 Congress passed, and President George H. W. Bush signed, the Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA). That act “encourages everyone to decide now about the types and extent of medical care they want to accept or refuse if they become unable to make those decisions due to illness.” The PSDA requires all health-care agencies to recognize the living will and durable power of attorney for health care.

In 2003, under the Republican administration of George W. Bush, “the Agency for Health care Research & Quality issued a 20-page report outlining a five-part process for patients to discuss end-of-life care with their physicians.” But who would pay for such a discussion? Medicare doesn’t cover it.

Page 425

This year, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Or., teamed with Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., a physician, to introduce a bipartisan, standalone bill that would permit Medicare to pay for such consultations. Writers of HR3200, the health-care reform bill currently in the U.S. House of Representatives, included their concept into HR3200.

Medicare can pay for one every five years, unless there is justification to have one sooner.

Beginning at about page 425 of a 1,018 page document. It describes such consultations and says Medicare can pay for one every five years, unless there is justification to have one sooner.

Isn’t this the way we would like it to be: United Methodists, Democrats, Republicans, working together over time, to give people the chance to talk to a doctor and make up their own minds about what is right in their family?

But it hasn’t worked out that way. In the past several works a furor erupted. The Internet was flooded with scare messages with titles such as “Page 425 Health Care Plan, Are We Being Prepped for Suicide?” In the way partisan politics can turn things inside out, the voluntary physician consultations turned into sessions “to teach the elderly the fine art of suicide.”

31 million ‘hits’

If you do a search on the Internet for all sites containing “425” and “health,” you get as many as 31 million hits. Many of them reflect this hysteria. One, for instance, assures you:

Page 425 and the pages that follow say nothing of the kind.

On page 425 it says in black and white that EVERYONE on Social Security, (will include all Senior Citizens and SSI people) will go to MANDATORY counseling every 5 years to learn and to choose from ways to end your suffering (and your life). Health care will be denied based on age. 500 Billion will be cut from Seniors health care. The only way for that to happen is to drastically cut health care, the oldest and the sickest will be cut first. Paying for your own care will not be an option. Now, contact your representative in Washington!! Tell them to read page 425 if they don’t read anything else. Surely some of them have parents.

Page 425 and the pages that follow say nothing of the kind.

Nevertheless, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Republican Policy Committee Chair Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., issued a statement that this proposal “may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia.”

Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity touted a New York Post article, which in turn cited an interview that talk-show host and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., gave to Betsy McCaughey, former New York lieutenant governor and now a fellow at Washington’s health-interest-funded Hudson Institute. She said, “Congress would make it mandatory, absolutely require, that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner.”

This seems to be the trigger that set off the talk-show explosion. Go to Thompson’s talk-show site and you can listen to them discuss what he calls this “dirty little secret.” McCaughey sounds knowledgeable and concerned. Thompson sounds as shocked as if he had no idea before the interview what appalling news she was about to bring.

A myth

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded, calling McCaughey’s statement a myth. “The provision extends Medicare coverage to cover the cost of patients voluntarily speaking with their doctors about their values and preferences regarding end-of-life care — empowering older Americans on this critical issue,” Pelosi explained. “These are deeply personal decisions that take thoughtful consideration, and it is only appropriate that doctors be compensated for their time.”

McCaughey isn't just wrong, she's spreading a ridiculous falsehood.

The facts about 425 are as follows:

  • Advance planning consultations are not mandatory; this benefit is completely voluntary. The provision merely provides coverage under Medicare to have a conversation once every five years if, and only if, a patient wants to make his or her wishes known to a doctor. If desired, patients may have consultations more frequently if they are chronically ill or if their health status changes.
  • There is no mandate in the bill to complete an advance-care directive or living will. If a patient chooses to complete an advance directive or order for life sustaining treatment, these documents will help articulate a full range of treatment preferences, from full and aggressive treatment to limited, comfort care only. Patients that choose to have these documents and can customize them so that their wishes are appropriately reflected.
  • There are no government-chosen professionals involved. The legislation simply allows Medicare to pay for a conversation between patient and their doctors.”
  • Independent analysis by Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact.com concluded:

    “McCaughey incorrectly states that the bill would require Medicare patients to have these counseling sessions and she is suggesting that the government is somehow trying to interfere with a very personal decision. And her claim that the sessions would "tell [seniors] how to end their life sooner" is an outright distortion. Rather, the sessions are an option for elderly patients who want to learn more about living wills, health care proxies and other forms of end-of-life planning. McCaughey isn't just wrong, she's spreading a ridiculous falsehood.”

    The effect of this hysteria is to frighten seniors about what health reform may do to the government’s Medicare program on which they rely. If you care about The United Methodist Church’s Resolution #3205 and about keeping political discussions factual, not fearful, let the people you talk with know the facts. It is a shame that people are distorting the truth about a provision that could contribute so much dignity to situation fraught with stress.


    Editor’s note: The Rev. Jackson Day is a consultant with the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society’s addictions and health-care program area. He is a member of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church.

    Source: General Board of Church and Society, The United Methodist Church

    Monday, August 03, 2009

    Please vote on this Poll

    On July 30, I posted "will There be Justice from Unfair Trade?"

    There's something each one of us can do to help with the problem of China's unfair trade policies.
    Go to the following web site, scroll down a little bit, and on the right hand side of the page, you'll see the poll. It will only take a couple seconds.

    Saturday, August 01, 2009

    Right wingers are the berries

    Listening to right wingers negotiate healthcare reform is a real riot. Such liars they are. It's seems to be a simple truth that no matter what a conservative right winger says, just the opposite is true.