From Conor Clarke at the Atlantic:
One of the wackier developments in the recent health care debate has been the sudden return of Betsy McCaughey. Fifteen years ago McCaughey wrote an error-laden piece for the New Republic, a piece the magazine later recanted, that became a rallying cry of the successful effort to kill Clintoncare, and that McCaughey parlayed into a short-lived career as the lieutenant governor of New York. McCaughey’s health-care shtick in 1994 was to brag about having read all 1,000-plus pages of the bill and cite, with Biblical certainty, obscure provisions that made the Clintons look like serial killers.
And now McCaughey is back. And her shtick, like a bug trapped in the amber of the Clinton years, is to brag about having read the entire bill, while pointing to obscure provisions that make all that Obama campaign stuff about hope and change look like an excuse to get into office and start knocking off the elderly. [In the Wall Street Journal, she cites] page numbers in various bills to equate comparative effectiveness research with “limiting care based on the patient’s age.” [On Fox News she drops] page numbers to claim that the congressional plan will force you out of your current insurance program. [On] Fred Thompson’s radio show, [she] ostentatiously [cites] her reading of the bill to make the claim that “Congress would make it mandatory…that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner,”
That last claim about required government euthanasia counseling — repeated hundreds of times in dozens of places over the past week — is worth lingering over. […] There is absolutely nothing about a “required counseling session.” Nothing. There is a requirement that Medicare cover the session if you haven’t had it in the past five years but, naturally, that doesn’t mean you are required to take advantage of the coverage.
Republicans have found many reasons to oppose the Democrats’ health care proposal, but this is one of the oddest.
Betsy McCaughey, chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and former lieutenant governor of New York state, says the bill goes too far to encourage senior citizens to end their lives.
On the radio show of former Sen. Fred Thompson on July 16, 2009, McCaughey said “Congress would make it mandatory — absolutely require — that every five years people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner.”
She said those sessions would help the elderly learn how to “decline nutrition, how to decline being hydrated, how to go in to hospice care … all to do what’s in society’s best interest or in your family’s best interest and cut your life short.”
Her point has caught on with conservative pundits. On his July 21 show, Rush Limbaugh said the following:
“Mandatory counseling for all seniors at a minimum of every five years, more often if the seasoned citizen is sick or in a nursing home. … That’s an invasion of the right to privacy. We can’t have counseling for mothers who are thinking of terminating their pregnancy, but we can go in there and counsel people about to die.”
In her chat with Thompson, McCaughey said the language can be found on page 425 of the health care bill, so we started there. Indeed, Sec. 1233 of the bill, labeled “Advance Care Planning Consultation” details how the bill would, for the first time, require Medicare to cover the cost of end-of-life counseling sessions.
According to the bill, “such consultation shall include the following: An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to; an explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses; an explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.”
Jon Keyserling, general counsel and vice president of public policy for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which supports the provision, said the bill doesn’t encourage seniors to end their lives, it just allows some important counseling for decisions that take time and consideration.
In no way would these sessions be designed to encourage patients to end their lives, said Jim Dau, national spokeman for AARP, a group that represents people over 50 that has lobbied in support of the advanced planning provision.
McCaughey’s comments are “not just wrong, they are cruel,” said Dau.
Both Keyserling and Dau were particularly troubled that McCaughey insisted — three times, to be exact — that the sessions would be mandatory, which they are not.
For his part, Keyserling said he and outside counsel read the language carefully to make sure that was not the case.
“Neither of us can come to the conclusion that it’s mandatory.” he said.
For our ruling on this one, there’s really no gray area here. McCaughey incorrectly states that the bill would require Medicare patients to have these counseling sessions and she is suggesting that the government is somehow trying to interfere with a very personal decision. And her claim that the sessions would “tell [seniors] how to end their life sooner” is an outright distortion. Rather, the sessions are an option for elderly patients who want to learn more about living wills, health care proxies and other forms of end-of-life planning. McCaughey isn’t just wrong, she’s spreading a ridiculous falsehood. That’s a Pants on Fire.