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Senior Death Warrants

Claim:   Message warns that health care reform will be a "death warrant" for seniors.

MIXTURE OF TRUE AND FALSE INFORMATION

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, July 2009]

The actress Natasha Richardson died after falling skiing in Canada. It took eight hours to drive her to a hospital. If Canada had our healthcare she might be alive today. We now have helicopters that would have gotten her to the hospital in 30 minutes. Obama wants to have our healthcare like Canada's and England's.

In England anyone over 59 cannot receive heart repairs or stents or bypass because it is not covered as being too expensive and not needed.

I got this today and am sending it on. If Obama's plans in other areas don't scare you, this should.

Please do not let Obama sign senior death warrants

Everybody that is on this mailing list is either a senior citizen, is getting close or knows somebody that is.

Most of you know by now that the Senate version (at least) of the "stimulus" bill includes provisions for extensive rationing of health care for senior citizens. The author of this part of the bill, former senator and tax evader, Tom Daschle was credited today by Bloomberg with the following statement:

Bloomberg: Daschle says "health-care reform will not be pain free. Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them."

If this does not sufficiently raise your ire, just remember that Senators and Congressmen have their own healthcare plan that is first dollar or very low co-pay which they are guaranteed the remainder of their lives and are not subject to this new law if it passes.

Please use the power of the Internet to get this message out. Talk it up at the grassroots level.... We have an election coming up in one year and nine months. We have the ability to address and reverse the dangerous direction the Obama administration and it allies have begun and in the interim, we can make their lives miserable. Lets do it! If you disagree, don't do anything.
 

Origins:   Whenever the subject of health care reform is taken up in the U.S., a common argument expressed in opposition is that increased government involvement in the health care system will inevitably result in a significant rationing of services, with senior citizens being the group most adversely affected by such rationing. The e-mail quoted above is an expression in that vein — a warning that health care reform will be tantamount to signing "senior death warrants" — but its supporting statements are a mixture of true, false, and questionable information.

  • The actress Natasha Richardson died after falling skiing in Canada. It took eight hours to drive her to a hospital. If Canada had our healthcare she might be alive today. We now have helicopters that would have gotten her to the hospital in 30 minutes.

  • The death of actress Natasha Richardson from a head injury sustained in a skiing accident on Mont Tremblant in Quebec in March 2009 was quickly seized upon by many critics as an example of the perils of "socialized medicine" — it was a lack of crucial equipment such as CT scanners and medevac helicopters that killed her, they said; if her accident had occurred in the U.S., she probably would have survived. While the
    question of whether Richardson might have survived under different conditions is unanswerable, the way the issue is presented here is inaccurate.

    About four hours elapsed between Richardson's accident and her admission to a hospital, but that delay was due to the actress' having initially declined to be transported elsewhere for medical treatment when paramedics first tended to her at the ski resort. Only after a second emergency call was placed over two hours later and medics had worked on her for additional half hour was Richardson ready to be transported to a hospital, a facility which was a 40-minute (not eight-hour) drive away. Two hours later, she was taken by ambulance to a second hospital in Montreal.

    It is possible that if Richardson had been immediately delivered to the second hospital by a medevac helicopter, she might have survived her injury, but that is a matter of speculation. And while it is true that a helicopter medevac service was not available in the particular area of Quebec where her accident occurred, it is not true (as some have inferred) that all of Canada lacks access to such medevac services.

  • Obama wants to have our healthcare like Canada's and England's.

  • Although the health care initiative proposed by President Obama (commonly dubbed "ObamaCare") is often characterized as the adoption of a medical system identical to that used in Canada and/or the UK, that characterization is not accurate. The President's plan calls for providing Americans with the option of government health insurance (which will compete with private insurance plans), not for replacing the entire U.S. medical system with a single-payer, government-funded system. (Critics maintain, though, that a public insurance plan would inevitably drive private insurers out of business, thereby setting the U.S. on the road to government-run health care.)

  • In England anyone over 59 cannot receive heart repairs or stents or bypass because it is not covered as being too expensive and not needed.

  • We could find no documentation supporting the claim that Britain's National Health Service (NHS) absolutely denies all coverage of "heart repairs or stents or bypass" to patients over the age of 59. An NHS representative told us, in response to our query, that:
    There is no arbitrary cut off point where age is concerned. If a consultant decides that a heart bypass or the fitting of a stent is the required surgical intervention, then, providing the patient agrees to the procedure, the surgery will go ahead.
    Additionally, many readers from the UK have related to us their personal experiences with such procedures being performed on persons over 59, including a paramedic who wrote to say:
    I have personally transported many people to hospital for cardiac procedures, including stenting (the most common procedure). Virtually all of these patients are over 60, many are over 80, and none are treated any differently to younger patients. I have watched stenting operations performed on patients, the oldest I have seen was 85 and [he] made a full recovery.

    We never treat older patients any differently from younger patients. The NHS may have its problems but it is a myth that old people are not given adequate or equal care to younger persons.
  • Most of you know by now that the Senate version (at least) of the "stimulus" bill includes provisions for extensive rationing of health care for senior citizens.

  • This statement appears to based on a Bloomberg article cited within the e-mail which is critical of provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (better known as the "stimulus bill"), that established a Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (FCCCER) to "provide information on the relative strengths and weakness of various medical interventions" and "give clinicians and patients valid information to make decisions that will improve the performance of the U.S. health care system." Says that article:
    Medicare now pays for treatments deemed safe and effective. The stimulus bill would change that and apply a cost-effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council.

    The Federal Council is modeled after a U.K. board [the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE], discussed in Daschle's book. This board approves or rejects treatments using a formula that divides the cost of the treatment by the number of years the patient is likely to benefit. Treatments for younger patients are more often approved than treatments for diseases that affect the elderly, such as osteoporosis.
    The Wall Street Journal observed that:
    Proponents argue that such cost-benefit analysis has to figure into health-care decisions, and that any medical system rations care in some way. And it is true that U.S. private insurers also deny reimbursement for some kinds of care. The core issue is whether those decisions are going to be dictated by [...] politics (NICE) or by prices (a private insurance system).
  • The author of this part of the bill, former senator and tax evader, Tom Daschle was credited today by Bloomberg with the following statement: Daschle says "health-care reform will not be pain free. Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them."

  • Although the statement credited to Tom Daschle was included in a 9 February 2009 Bloomberg article by Betsy McCaughey, it's not a direct quote from the former senator. Here's how the sentence actually reads as presented in that article:
    Daschle says health-care reform "will not be pain free." Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.
    Note the difference in quotation marks: only the words "will not be pain free" are actually Daschle's. The rest, as PolitiFact noted, is the author's interpretation of material that appeared in Daschle's 2008 book, Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis:
    We contacted McCaughey to see which parts of this were her words and which were Daschle's.

    The phrase that health care reform "will not be pain-free" is a direct quote from Daschle, she explained. She said the sentence beginning "Seniors should be more accepting" was her paraphrasing of an argument in Daschle's book in which he quotes David Mechanic, a health care policy expert at Rutgers University, saying, "more and more of what were once seen as social, behavioral, or normative aspects of every day life, or as a normal process of aging, are now framed in a medical context. ... Whether wrinkles, breasts, or buttocks, impotence or social anxieties, or inattention in school, they all have become grist for the medical mill."

    We think it's a stretch to summarize Daschle's position as saying that seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. Not treating wrinkles is one thing. Not treating, say, heart disease, is another.
    Indeed, the point Daschle makes in the section of his book referenced by McCaughey is not that seniors should learn to accept limited medical care, but rather that one of factors behind higher health care costs is that a number of procedures and treatments with little real medical benefit (such as cosmetic surgery) have been aggressively marketed to the public by health care providers and drug companies.

  • If this does not sufficiently raise your ire, just remember that Senators and Congressmen have their own healthcare plan that is first dollar or very low co-pay

  • Members of Congress (along with other all federal employees — everyone from the President to postal workers) are eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), which is not a single health care plan but rather a collection of many different private health insurance plans from which enrollees can choose. In general, the FEHBP offerings are similar to Medicare (with prescription drug coverage) but provide significantly better medical coverage and benefits than many Americans have:
    [The FEHBP provides] a choice of 10 healthcare plans that provide access to a national network of doctors, as well as several HMOs that serve each member's home state.

    Lawmakers also get special treatment at Washington's federal medical facilities and, for a few hundred dollars a month, access to their own pharmacy and doctors, nurses and medical technicians standing by in an office conveniently located between the House and Senate chambers.

    Given their choices, lawmakers can tailor coverage in a way most Americans cannot. If a child has asthma, for instance, a federal employee might opt for coverage that costs a little more but has a bigger doctor network and lower office-visit fees.

    Federal employees also enjoy a significant benefit denied the average American: There is no such thing as a preexisting condition, which keeps many sick people from obtaining insurance. Once hired, federal workers are eligible for coverage no matter their health, with no waiting period.
    Last updated:   2 August 2009

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    Sources:

        Barabak, Mark Z. and Faye Fiore.   "For Congress, Healthcare's No Worry."
        Los Angeles Times.   2 August 2009   (p. A3).

        Daschle, Tom.   Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.
        New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2008.   ISBN 0-3123-8301-0   (pp. 9-10).

        Harrold, Max.   "Canadian Healthcare Didn't Kill Natasha Richardson: Doctor."
        Canada.com.   28 March 2009.

        Koppelman, Max.   "If We Nationalize Health Care, More Celebrities Will Die!"
        Salon.   27 March 2009.

        Levin, Yuval and William Kristol.   "Dare to Defeat ObamaCare."
        The Weekly Standard.   22 June 2009.

        McCaughey, Betsy.   "Ruin Your Health with the Obama Stimulus Plan."
        Bloomberg.   9 February 2009.

        Associated Press.   "Family, Friends Gather for Natasha Richardson Wake."
        CTV.   20 March 2009.

        The Wall Street Journal.   "Of NICE and Men."
        7 July 2009.