Fear Mongering Abounds In Health Debate
"What many people say they fear most from an overhaul of the health care system [is] the prospect of the federal government's limiting the medical care they receive," the New York Times reports. Policy experts say people are right to worry about health care costs, but this fear of rationing is unrealistic. "[T]here is nothing in the current proposals in Washington to suggest that the country is likely to embark on a system of medical rationing anytime soon," the Times reports (Abelson, 8/24).
A variation of this fear stems from proposals that would affect end-of-life care. A Veterans Affairs guide to writing living wills, "Your Life, Your Choices," spurred controversy last week when a former Bush administration official dinged it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, NPR reports. The document asks veterans to choose in advance when they would say their lives are no longer worth continuing, based on criteria like relying on a wheelchair, living in a nursing home or being sad all the time. Jim Towey, the former leader of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, said, "That makes them feel their life is a burden not a gift." NPR notes that Dave Autry, a spokesman for Disabled Veterans of America, said "It's a tempest in a teapot as far as I'm concerned, personally," and adds: "He says although health care is on the minds of veterans at the convention, the VA guide has gotten almost no attention. And then, mainly from veterans who worry that it's being used to undermine attempts to change health care" (Shapiro, 8/24).
To critics of reform, Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist and physician who advises the White House on health care issues, has become the object of many of these fears, the New York Times reports. Betsy McCaughey, the former lieutenant governor of New York, called him a "deadly" doctor who seeks to restrict care for the disabled, "a false assertion" gleaned from quoting his writing "out of context" and then repeated on the House floor by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. However, the Times reports, "The level of vitriol against him has led even some conservative opponents to defend Dr. Emanuel while expressing concern that it is overtaking what they say are more vital real-world critiques" (Rutenberg, 8/24).