Sunday, September 6, 2009
In the Aug. 30 Steamboat Pilot & Today, John Doolittle makes several false statements that must be answered. First, he states that the House health care bill (HR3200: America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009), provides for "authorization for a Medical Review Panel whose members can deny medical procedures if judged too costly or if it only extends life somewhat but provides no permanent cure." I searched HR3200 online at the Library of Congress Web site, http://thomas.loc.gov/, and found no reference to any such panel. In fact, there is no reference to any kind of rationing of health care - either by cost effectiveness or by requiring a permanent cure. Rationing by ability to pay for insurance does occur today, but will not occur if HR3200, or a similar bill, is passed.
Mr. Doolittle goes on to cite pages 425-430 of the bill as requiring end-of-life counseling, which, he says, "provides subtle guidance to sick citizens to terminate their life for the better good." I'm afraid Mr. Doolittle has fallen prey to a widely distributed chain e-mail that cites page numbers of the bill and offers wildly inaccurate interpretations. For a detailed response to said e-mail, please visit http://fact
check.org. Pages 425-430 include Section B-II-C-1233, Advance Care Planning Consultation, which provides that Medicare will pay for voluntary discussions between patients and their doctors regarding the kind of care the patient wants to receive at the end of life. Living wills, medical proxies and Hospice are among the many helpful topics covered. Medicare does not now pay for such sessions, but will do so if HR3200 passes. Having assisted my parents as they grappled with these questions several years ago, I see this provision as a wonderful gift to patients and families.
The next concern for Mr. Doolittle is that federal employees will never have their insurance canceled, whereas the rest of us have no such guarantee. Today, he's right. Insurance policies are often canceled when cancer or other serious diseases are diagnosed. HR3200 specifically guarantees this will no longer occur. At the very top of the bill, under General Standards, Section A-I-A-111 stipulates that coverage cannot be denied for pre-existing conditions, and Section A-I-A-112 states that existing coverage cannot be rescinded for any reason other than fraud. Of all the valuable health care reforms, these two are, to me, the most important.
Lastly, Mr. Doolittle frets that "under the House bill, (Senator) Kennedy's cancer treatment would not be allowed because it costs too much and his cancer was untreatable." Section A-I-C-122, Essential Benefits Package Defined, spells out the minimum standards for coverage that must be guaranteed by every insurance plan; there is no limit as to the coverage a plan can offer above those minimums. In other words, this bill is our guarantee of quality health insurance that can be neither denied nor canceled, no matter whether we are senators, carpenters, ranchers or writers of letters to the editor.