August 12th, 2009
06:16 PM ET
14 years ago

CNN Truth Squad: Say goodnight, Grandpa

The Statement: The health-care bill now before the House of Representatives requires doctors to encourage the elderly to give up medical care "because you're no longer a working citizen who will be paying taxes," as one woman put it at a meeting with Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter on Tuesday. That claim has been spread through a variety of sources, from radio talk shows and e-mail to a Facebook message from former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who vowed never to let government "death panels" determine whether her parents or her infant son - who has Down syndrome - were "worthy of health care."

The "60 Plus Association," a group led by singer Pat Boone, warns in ads that if the House bill passes, "The government, not doctors, will decide if older patients are worth the cost." And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich defended Palin during appearance on ABC's "This Week," saying the Obama administration is "asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there clearly are people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia."

(Get the facts and the verdict after the jump)

The Facts: What the critics are citing is Section 1233 of a 1,000-page version of the bill now before the House of Representatives. The provision, located nearly halfway through the bill, would require Medicare to pay doctors for consultations with patients about "advance care planning," such as the drafting of living wills. Those consultations would include "an explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice."

Critics say that the health bill would lead to rationed care, giving the government an incentive to deny treatment to the elderly in favor of healthier, more productive people - and that Section 1233 is meant to encourage seniors to give up treatment and die.

But the American Medical Association, which has endorsed the bill, says it "would not mandate that patients take advantage of this benefit."

"The new Medicare benefit would allow doctors to be compensated for such consultations every five years, and more frequently if a patient has a life-limiting illness or health status changes," the organization says.

And the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization says the consultations would be voluntary, not mandatory.

"No one is required to undergo the consultation," the organization says.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, opposes the House bill and the proposal put out by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. But he got similar language added to the Senate bill, which would allow patients enrolled in Medicare's long-term care program to seek their own consultations on drafting living wills and obtaining powers of attorney, and called comparisons of end-of-life consultations to euthanasia "nuts" during a recent interview with the Washington Post.

The Verdict: False.As Specter put it Tuesday, "That's a vicious, malicious, untrue rumor."

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