Government Death Panels or Goat Sacrifices? You decide.

Death Panels?  No, the bill does not use the term, “Death Panel.”  If you were trying to convince Americans to sign up for a program where more of their paychecks would disappear in taxes, would you really use the expression “Death Panel?”  Of course not.  The Death Panel reference is in regard to a section of the current health care reform bill that states the elderly should meet with counseling on their future health care requirements.  This includes suggestions to write a will, etc…  Not by itself a bad idea, surely we should all do that.  The concept is that during these counseling sessions, it may be suggested that you decide exactly when you do not want life sustaining efforts to revive you to be provided such as by signing a DNR consent form (Do Not Resuscitate) which means if you flat line from your heart not beating, the Dr’s will not try to restart your heart.  Or at what point would a degradation of your quality of life through declining health be a good point to, for lack of a better way to say it, stop trying to live?  These are all things we each need to decide and put on paper for when we can not express these opinions on our own.

I like to think this is a good idea in that we should all have wills, or at least “living wills.”  Wills provide instruction on not only who in the family gets what which saves a lot of lawyer bills and family angst, but also what your Dr’s should do in certain circumstances when you are unable to tell them what to do.  Good idea.  At its best, these government funded counseling sessions would at least force the elderly to confront the fact that they will die and how do they want it handled.  Often, individuals do not provide instructions and the family is not willing to decide for them (assuming they legally could) and life sustaining efforts are provided indefinitely at exceptional cost simply because we don’t know if they wanted it or not, so better to fall on the “live” side.

If the elderly in these sessions were to choose to “live-at-all-costs” then that’s what they would get, but that’s what they would get anyway since we wouldn’t know what they wanted.  If they choose a DNR or some other instruction on when they want to not be revived, then their wishes are filled and we save money.  So in this best case scenario, this would work.

However, we could achieve all these cost savings without this health care reform bill.  Insurance companies could simply charge slightly higher premiums to individuals who choose not to create a will or living will.  Insurance is based on risk.  If the risk is unknown, the insurance will cost more.  If insurance companies know that you do not want them to pay for 20 years of keeping you in a vegetable-like state because you have signed a document saying to pull the plug in such a case, then they know the cost of keeping you alive will be less and that will be reflected in lower premium payments.  This can all be done in the free market without a trillion dollar bill being passed and allowing big government to control our health care choices.

Government likes to make people think they are the only ones with a solution.  They do this by interfering with the free market so much that the free market becomes inefficient trying to keep up with all of the government’s rules and mandates.  This makes people think the problems they have with health care and insurance companies are somehow due to the failure of the free market.  Then the government “comes to the rescue” to “save us” from the evil insurance companies.

At its worst, there is a belief that during these counseling sessions, the government funded counselors may suggest or influence certain elderly to “lean” towards DNR’s or to “lean” towards limited efforts of reviving them. This would be sold to them by explaining how bad their quality of life would be on a respirator or a dialysis machine or that they may go into a coma and live like a vegetable for years, etc…  These are not untrue statements, so it would be fair from the counselors point of view to express these as a possibility.  What is unfair is the motive of the counselor, which is not so much to prevent those things from happening because they care about this elderly person as it is to reduce the costs of taking care of this one elderly individual if they choose to live-at-all-costs.  That is the fear, that is where Americans get nervous.  When motive is cost and not love, something is wrong.

Death is a personal event and I don’t remember any founder of this nation ever suggesting that the government should have any hand at all in when you are going to die.  This discussion should be between husband and wife and family…not between an elderly person and a government employee.  The discussion should be love based, not cost based.  That is the fundamental difference.

The news and the government is making such a big deal out of this term, Death Panel.  That makes it so easy to avoid the real problem.  Nowhere in the bill does it say Death Panel and nowhere in the bill does it say “mandatory goat sacrifices” either.  If you are a politician supporting the health care bill, you can just spend all your time getting in front of the major news outlets telling everyone what the bill doesn’t say as if that is a logical way to sell it to the American people.  There is no reference to death panels in the bill…but the bill also doesn’t reference goat sacrifices, cod fishing, Niagara Falls or Unicorns.  Yet saying what doesn’t exist in the bill completely avoids the underlying concept of a Death Panel, which the bill will create.

Although no Death Panel may ever exist, at the end of the day, your fate will be decided by the government, Death Panel or not.  There is, and never will be, enough legislation or enough tax money to prevent death.  It is imminent and we will all die.  The question is, when is enough money to continue life, too much money?  Who should decide?  Should you decide when enough money is enough?  Should an insurance company?  Should the government?  Could you decide when enough money was too much money for someone else?

With this bill, someone from government will decide when you die.  It has to be that way…if the government is the one paying then the government will decide when to stop paying.  Is that really that much different from a Death Panel?  Perhaps we should change that to a Death Person?  The change will be that they decide, you do not.  Period.

How comfortable do you feel about that?  Think about how well government operates…how well did they do with Social Security which is bankrupt?  How well did they do with the economy by creating the largest bubble and crash since the Great Depression?  How much do you love the DMV?  How well did they do with Medicare which even they admit is out of control?  How about the Post Office, which posted a $2.4B loss in the third quarter and has been losing money for years, actually for 11 of the past 12 fiscal quarters?  And now they want to decide when you die.  Sound good?

The decision to die is personal.  Some will not want to be on respirators and the like and would prefer to die in peace even if life saving efforts could extend their lives.  Some would prefer to stay alive no matter how much the cost to society and would consume as much money and as many resources as possible to do so.  All of us will face this decision at some point.  Our choices will be presented to us based on what we can afford, what our insurance will cover and what is available.  In a government run healthcare system, our choices will be presented to us based on what the government decides.

So, would we rather have insurance companies compete with each other in a free market to provide us the most coverage for the least premiums where inefficient insurance companies are driven out from the market or allow the government, no matter how inefficient with our tax dollars, to bureaucratically decide what the value will be for the continuation of life based on how much they are willing to spend?  And remember that based on their track record, they will be running with billion dollar losses while they decide how much more to spend on your life.  Which way do you think they will “lean?”

I guess as long as nobody from the Post Office, the Treasury, the DMV, Social Security or Medicare is running this program, maybe it’ll work?  Feelin’ lucky?

Categories: Healthcare Reform

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