‘Death Panels’ Dropped From Medicare Regulations

In an abrupt change of course, the Obama administration will revise a Medicare regulation to eliminate references to counseling about end-of-life planning that were to be required at annual physical examinations for elderly Medicare recipients. As reported in yesterday’s New York Times:

While administration officials cited procedural reasons for changing the rule, it was clear that political concerns were also a factor. The renewed debate over advance care planning threatened to become a distraction to administration officials who were gearing up to defend the health law against attack by the new Republican majority in the House.

Indeed, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader who is to become speaker today, said that the provision regarding end-of-life planning could be a step “down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia.” 

Doctors and supporters of hospice care had supported, and praised, the measure. As the mother of a child who’s severely autistic, such planning is a necessary part of responsible parenthood. As I wrote, if my husband and I don’t plan ahead now for our son’s care as an adult, and also when we are gone and when he himself is elderly, no one will.

In 2008, Palin had posted a note on her Facebook page in which she stated that the President’s ‘death panel’ could ‘kill’ her ‘Down Syndrome baby’—a statement that makes it all too clear how little she understands about what the long-term care of a disabled child involves. 

Indeed, the President’s now-endangered health care legislation shows thoughtful foresight about the needs of individuals with disabilities by requiring greater access to home and community based services for them, rather than by placing them in nursing homes or institutional facilities.

It looks like Sarah Palin’s tagging end-of-life planning as tantamount to ‘death panels’ has (sorry for the choice of words) killed advanced care planning. And her comments, and Boehner’s, only show how very, very much we need to discuss such counseling, if we’re going to take care of those who are sick in ways that are respectful to their wishes, and that maintain their dignity.

Previous posts on Care2:

End-of-Life Counseling Returns, But Death Panels Still Nonsense

End-of-Life Planning To Be Covered By Medicare in 2011

Photo by timsamoff.


Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

THIS WHOLE COUNTRY needs a discussion about birth > living> death. It is a real, sensible circle of life, just as every other life form dies, from plants to animals.

Used to be, people were sensible about death. We mourned the loss of a loved one, but we knew that death is inevitable and natural. I'm an R.N., and when patients enter the hospital, one of the first things we ask is: "do you have Advanced Directives? and if not, do you want information on YOUR choices?" Most people do not know that THEY control the course of treatment on themselves.

WE CAN SAVE ANYONE NOWADAYS -- but that does not mean that you will have a meaningful life. Living on a ventilator is not living. Every person in a free society, lives the way he wants. Everyone should also have the control over his demise, should there be a terminal disease or multi-system organ failure. These things must be talked over with one's doctor, and the rules set about what a particular person wants or does not want.

We already do this in hospitals. I am highly disappointed that it is no longer in the Medicare portion, because it would reemburse doctors for their time and expertise.

Lika S.
Lika P7 years ago

Oh, geez. The issue isn't death panels. Who gave it that name? Melodramatic, anyone? It's end of life issues, and it's all about advanced directives, common sense and what you want at the end of your life, and if you have cognitively disabled children, what to do with them.

I have 98 year old grandparents. They could die any time, and especially grandpa from heart problems, w/o it, ER would try to save his life. The thing is, the very action to save him could crush his chest and kill him anyway. He needs to be kept in comfort and let him go peacefully.

I've also worked with homes for developmentally disabled adults. While many do have function and are an asset to society, there are others who have such severe conditions, that I'm just not so sure if not having a parent sign an advance directive in their behalf would be smart... It's a good idea to have it in place, so nothing dumb goes on, like try to save the life of a person who had a 10 minute seizure, who couldn't talk and was already severely stunted... So they can be a vegetable in a wheel chair? Just for them to fall out of the chair with another seizure and die anyway...

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago


Nancy S.
Nancy S7 years ago

Thank you

Doug D.
Doug D7 years ago

Someone needs to tell Sarah that the Palin people wish would disappear is not her Down's Syndrome baby. If people don't want end of life counseling they don't need to have it. It's pathetic to deny it to those who want it.

Helen Douglas
Helen D7 years ago

I am truly sorry that Sarah Palin's well publicized lies have deprived so many people of end-of-life counseling.

People -- wake up and understand that we have a God-given brain for a reason -- to gather information and make our own conclusions. Don't accept the cute sound bytes or bumper sticker scare tactics! Gather information for yourself and THINK!!!

Linda H.
Linda h7 years ago

Sorry to hear this.

Robert Shelby
Robert Shelby7 years ago

Lisa Z., where have you been living for the last ten years?

Robert Shelby
Robert Shelby7 years ago

Why in the world would a sensible writer headline an article using the ENEMY'S LANGUAGE?

Ernie Miller
william Miller7 years ago

What death pannels? can I get on one and recomend the idiots that creat these lies as the first people to go? End of life planning folks think about your loved ones! do you realyy want them having to make decisions you should be making why you can?