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Obamacare Regulators Are Getting Ready To Pull the Plug On Grandma

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Posted on December 28 2010 2:00 pm

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The New York Times, bless its heart, is looking out for Grandma. In a  front page lead story on Christmas Day, the Times reported that the Obama administration is planning to enact a new Medicare regulation, effective January 1, 2011, under which the government will pay doctors who advise elder patients annually on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment. In other words, the Obama administration will ensure that doctors will be incentivized to badger Grandma year after year whether she wants to pull the plug rather than seek treatment if and when she becomes seriously ill.

The Obama administration is intending to sneak through the legislative proposal to encourage end-of-life planning which had touched off such a political firestorm that Democrats had dropped it from Obamacare earlier this year. And I mean “sneak through.” The Times reported that Congressional supporters of the new regulatory policy, though pleased, have tried to keep it secret. Where is WikiLeaks when we need them?

The office of Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, for example, who had authored the original end-of-life legislative proposal, put out an e-mail last month urging supporters of the regulation to stay mum:

Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it, but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response. The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.

The new rule says Medicare will cover “voluntary advance care planning,” to discuss end-of-life treatment, as part of the patient’s annual wellness visit. After being exposed by the Times article, supporters of the new regulation are trying to mislead the public into thinking that it is no big deal. They argue that Medicare legislation signed by President George Bush already covers end-of-life counseling. What they conveniently fail to mention is that the new regulation would represent a massive expansion of current Medicare law, which provides for coverage of such counseling only once – when a senior first signs up for Medicare.

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