The GOP and conservative media are falling all over each other trying to save the for-profit health insurance industry from having to compete with a modestly-run government health insurance program similar to Medicare. Their efforts will no doubt become even more frantic in response to a just-released New York Times/CBS News poll:
Americans overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the health care system and are strongly behind one of the most contentious proposals Congress is considering, a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insuranceand that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector.
Yet the survey also revealed considerable unease about the impact of heightened government involvement, on both the economy and the quality of the respondents’ own medical care. While 85 percent of respondents said the health care system needed to be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt, 77 percent said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of their own care.
That paradox was skillfully exploited by opponents of the last failed attempt at overhauling the health system, during former President Bill Clinton’s first term. Sixteen years later, it underscores the tricky task facing lawmakers andPresident Obama as they try to address the health system’s substantial problems without igniting fears that people could lose what they like.
Across a number of questions, the poll detected substantial support for a greater government role in health care, a position generally identified with the Democratic Party. When asked which party was more likely to improve health care, only 18 percent of respondents said the Republicans, compared with 57 percent who picked the Democrats. Even one of four Republicans said the Democrats would do better.
The ruling ultra-conservative wing of the GOP is doing everything possible to scare seniors to death over the proposals.
A campaign on conservative talk radio, fueled by President Obama’s calls to control exorbitant medical bills, has sparked fear among senior citizens that the health-care bill moving through Congress will lead to end-of-life “rationing” and even “euthanasia.”
The controversy stems from a proposal to pay physicians who counsel elderly or terminally ill patients about what medical interventions they would prefer near the end of life and how to prepare instructions such as living wills. Under the plan, Medicare would reimburse doctors for one session every five years to confer with a patient about his or her wishes and how to ensure those preferences are followed. The counseling sessions would be voluntary (emphasis added).
But on right-leaning radio programs, religious e-mail lists and Internet blogs, the proposal has been described as “guiding you in how to die,” “an ORDER from the Government to end your life,” promoting “death care” and, in the words of antiabortion leader Randall Terry, an attempt to “kill Granny.”
Note again, “The counseling sessions would be voluntary.”
I’m lucky, my doctor also teaches other doctors. He loves to talk and teach. Many physicians charge for advice. These sessions offer simple counseling about end-of-life options that no one likes to think about in advance, but we all know it’s wise to do so. A Living Will is a good thing. Right now Medicare does not cover this counseling.
Why would Republicans and the conservative media want to deny Granny and Grandpa the ability to receive counseling from the professionals uniquely qualified to offer such advice? Rachel Maddow calls this malicious crowd the “deathers.”
Granny and Grandpa can relax. And change the channel: turn off FOX Noise, shut off Rush. Watch Rachel and Keith.
They might also want to call their congressman and tell them to back health care reform. This plan is a huge step forward for all Americans.