President Obama yesterday held an AARP-sponsored town hall on health care reform that was streamed live online — you can watch it now at the AARP website. A White House transcript is also available here.
If you scroll down about 2/3 of the way through the transcript, you’ll find that Obama was asked and answered another question along the lines of the “health reform = death for old people” rumors Christine addressed in a recent post. The audience member says, “I have been told there is a clause in there that everyone that’s Medicare age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die.”
The comment refers to a section of the House reform bill that would provide for consultation every five years about advance care planning, including explanations of things like living wills and power of attorney that people may want to consider, as well as information about end-of-life services such as hospice and palliative care.
As the moderator of the town hall noted, “This is being read as saying every five years you’ll be told how you can die.”
Well, that would be kind of morbid. I think that the idea in that provision, which may be in the House bill — keep in mind that we’re still having a whole series of negotiations, and if this is something that really bothers people, I suspect that members of Congress might take a second look at it. But understand what the intent is. The intent here is to simply make sure that you’ve got more information, and that Medicare will pay for it.
So, for example, there are some people who — they get a terminal illness, and they decide at a certain point they want to get hospice care. But they might not know how to go about talking to a hospice, what does it mean, how does it work. And they don’t want to — we don’t want them to have to pay for that out of pocket. So if Medicare is saying you have the option of consulting with somebody about hospice care, and we will reimburse it, that’s putting more power, more choice in the hands of the American people, and it strikes me that that’s a sensible thing to do.
Rachel Maddow last night had a segment on Republicans’ interpretation of the bill: