KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Controversy Follows Advance Care Planning Consultations

Amid continuing controversy, advance care planning consultations on end-of-life care are losing favor.

NPR reports: "The story has spread so fast even President Obama got asked about it at one of his town hall meetings. But no, the health care overhaul bill now working its way through Congress would not require seniors to learn how to die prematurely. ... The claims have been highly upsetting to groups like the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which strongly support what the bill really does - pay health care providers to talk to Medicare patients about creating so-called advance directives, or ways to express their health care desires in writing before they become incapacitated."

NPR notes: "So why have the demonstrably false claims about death gotten so much life? Harvard public opinion expert Robert Blendon says it's because seniors are very sensitive about their health care" (Rovner, 8/12). 

Wall Street Journal reports: "The end-of-life counseling provision in the House bill is expected to cost a few billion dollars over the next decade. But health policy experts say it could lower medical spending by reducing end-of-life medical care that patients don't want. Opponents say the provision shows that architects of the health-care overhaul want to ration seniors' care. Democratic lawmakers say no part of the House bill calls for rationing care. Physician counseling would be voluntary."

According to the Journal, "growing complaints over the provision are leading key lawmakers to conclude that the health overhaul should leave out any end-of-life counseling provisions. A group in the Senate Finance Committee that is attempting to craft Congress's only bipartisan health bill has decided to exclude such a measure, Senate aides said this week" (Adamy, 8/13).

McClatchy/Miami Herald reports on a Georgia Senator and the euthanasia myth: "When U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., takes the floor at a meeting at Vineville United Methodist Church in Macon on Thursday, he's expected to face tough questions about why President Barack Obama credits him as the inspiration behind the Democrats' push for end-of-life counseling efforts that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and some fellow conservatives call 'death panels.'"

Isakon said Obama and Palin are wrong and is trying to separate himself from controversial statements and protests.  According to McClatchy, Isakon was painted as an "unwitting and unwilling poster child for the administration's plea for bipartisanship" (Abdullah, 8/12).

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