17 August 2009

They Voted for You: "Death Panels" (Updated)

As Political Wire recently observed, Time magazine's Swampland noted similarities between language in the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill and provisions in some of the pending health care measures described as promoting euthanasia and creating mandatory "death panels."

The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.com are among those who have debunked the "death panel" claims as "wrong," "nonsense" and "pants-on-fire" false.

"The provision that has caused the uproar would instead authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes," AP reported.

The 2003 legislation provides coverage to terminally ill patients that includes "counseling the beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options," according to its conference report (page 663).

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, helped pass the 2003 measure. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, voted against it in the 220-215 roll call.

U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., voted against the bill when it passed their chamber 54-44.

Update: Politifact.com weighs in, and finds the comparison half-true: "(I)t's clear to us from our interviews with experts that there's a distinct difference between the 2003 law and the 2009 bill," its analysis found. "Yes, there's the appearance of inconsistency given the similar purpose for both bills, but the 2009 bill is more far-reaching than the 2003 law, which was focused narrowly on hospice patients."

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