KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Wisconsin City Was Unwitting Birthplace Of ‘Death Panel’ Myth

A Wisconsin city has a pioneering program with Medicare reimbursements, which has essentially made it the birthplace of the "death panel" myth. The Washington Post reports on La Crosse: "This city often shows up on 'best places to live' lists, but residents say it is also a good place to die -- which is how it landed in the center of a controversy that almost derailed health-care reform this summer."

"The town's biggest hospital, Gundersen Lutheran, has long been a pioneer in ensuring that the care provided to patients in their final months complies with their wishes. More recently, it has taken the lead in seeking to have Medicare compensate physicians for advising patients on end-of-life planning. The hospital got its wish this spring when House Democrats inserted that provision into their health-care reform bill -- only to see former Alaska governor Sarah Palin seize on it as she warned about 'death panels' ... Despite widespread debunking, those warnings have led lawmakers to say they will drop the provision. ... The controversy has had most resonance where it arguably took root, in this town of 52,000 where nearly everyone of a certain age has an advance-care directive. La Crosse became a pioneer in addressing end-of-life questions in the mid-1980s (MacGillis, 9/4).

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