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August 12, 2009
Column #1,459
Seniors Oppose Obamacare
By Mike McManus

An ominous storm cloud has darkened Obama's Health care proposal:  a Rasmussen Poll showing that America's seniors oppose it by 56 percent vs. only 39 percent in favor. Nearly half, 46 percent, said they were "strongly opposed."

Politically, this is a major problem for the Democratic Party.  Ever since FDR's New Deal created Social Security, and LBJ added Medicare, the elderly have been a pillar of the Democratic Party. They remember the Republicans opposed both programs.

Interestingly, the group most fervently in support of Obamacare are those least likely to benefit from it, voters under age 30, who back it 2-1.

Why are the elderly opposed to Obamacare?

First, they love Medicare and see no reason to change it.  Secondly, they have heard that Obamacare will be funded, in part, by cutting Medicare spending by $500 billion over a decade, which is called for by bills passed by House committees.

       "If there is a half trillion dollars of waste in Medicare, why wasn't it cut out before?" asks Dr. David Prentice of the Family Research Council. "It is hard to take out $500 billion from Medicare unless you are decreasing benefits or cutting back on the actual practice of the program. Seniors are right to be concerned. They are the ones who stand to lose the most."

       But the bigger problem is the bill's Section 1233, mandating that doctors give the elderly, "Advanced Care Planning Consultation."  Seniors see that as "death counseling." 

Part of this is reasonable.  Everyone should have a living will and advanced care directives so a loved one can make health care decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to do so. Currently, only a third of people have made such plans.

However, this provision's big proponent is Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, an enthusiastic supporter of his state's assisted suicide law.  There are cases in Oregon where cancer patients were told payments would not be made for cancer treatment, only for assisted suicide!  Dr. Prentice argues that is "geared to saving money."

Sarah Palin said there would be "Death Boards," deciding who would live and who would be left to die. A young girl in New Hampshire held up a sign outside a meeting where President Obama spoke Tuesday: "Obama Lies, Grandma Dies."

Obama told the Town Meeting, "The rumor that's been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for `death panel' that will basically pull the plug on grandma."

"I'm not in favor of that," the president asserted, denouncing those making such claims as using "scare tactics."

Scare tactics?  Not according to Dr. Wesley Smith, who leads bioethics and human rights for the Discovery Institute.  The House-passed bill does set up "proper care protocols" for cost savings.  "The fear is that they would be rationing boards, rather than entities which stick to saying, `Use generic drugs, rather than brand name drugs.'

"We have to wait for the regulations to implement the law to know what powers would be given. Therefore, I've looked at writings of advocates who have the President's ear on this, such as Ezekiel Emmanuel, NIH's head bioethicist and brother of the President's chief-of-staff, Rahm Emmanuel. In a "Lancet" article earlier this year, Exekiel suggested that age be a proper method of allocating scarce resources, and indeed, stated that age-based allocation is not invidious discrimination."

He wrote: "Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years old."

More important, consider the writing of Cass Sunstein, who was appointed by Obama to be the "Regulatory Czar."  This is the Executive Summary of a paper he wrote in 2003 for the Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, entitled "Lives, Life-Years, and Willingness to Pay." To protect health, he notes that government has relied on cost-benefit analysis, which "monetized risks of death through the idea of `value of a statistical life" assessed at $6.1 million.

Instead he proposes the measure be "value of a statistical life year" which "would likely result in significantly lower benefit calculations for elderly people, and significantly higher benefits calculations for children. I urge that the government should indeed focus on life-years rather than lives. A program that saves young people produces more welfare than one that saves old people."

Obamacare has become Obamascare!

Wesley Smith suggests a simple solution. "Put in a provision that Advanced Care Planning is purely voluntary to the patient and the provider, and shall not be directed to any particular result," such as cutting Medicare costs.

Without such language, millions may be pushed to die prematurely.
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