A couple of conservative friends recently shared a pair of YouTube videos with me entitled, "Senior Citizen Speaks Out On Healthcare Bill." In them, John C. Crawford of Texas blasts the bill in a compelling story, but unfortunately, I think at least half of it is built upon misinformation. I've watched these videos several times, and searched the H.R. 3200 document for the "exact excerpts," which don't exist. Some of the citations appear very similar to a viral email that FactCheck.org debunked most of in "Twenty-Six Lies about H.R. 3200."
It's amazing to me how someone can say, with a straight face, that something is not being taken out of context, when that's precisely what is being done. I'll accept that this man is a genuine person, and that his story is real. But what irks me is that he seems to be reading from some right wing interpretive (and creative) document and taking it at face value. Opinions are like epoxy: they start with a combination of basic elements, and harden when a strong catalyst is added. It's ironic that as humans, we are endowed with the incomparable ability to think for ourselves, but many of us are encumbered by the incomprehensible tendency to avoid doing so.
Mr. Crawford makes a big deal of the "Death Counseling" concept which sounds an awful lot like the "Death Panels" we've heard so much about. The death counseling provisions of H.R. 3200 are as innocuous as a summer breeze and as common sense as coming in out of the rain if you want to stay dry. They merely allow payment to doctors if they provide counseling on end-of-life issues. I recently lost my father after a 5-year battle with lung cancer and its side-effects. He went through so much, and so much of it proved unnecessary. If he, and we, had known what was in store for him and what his options were, his suffering would have been greatly reduced, he would have been more at peace, and it would have cost a whole lot less. He had a living will, but it wasn't really clear. He was lucid to the end, and I tried to have a discussion with him about what kind of care he wanted. His hearing was just about gone, and he asked with a quizzical look, "What kind of stairs do I want?" When we finally cleared that up, he said, "You'll know what to do when it's time." Well, I didn't, and I wish we'd had professional help. A couple of his doctors hinted at things regarding end-of-life, but when we pressed them for recommendations, they backed off quickly.
A couple of things President Obama said in his address to Congress about healthcare reform keep me optimistic. First, he said, "I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last." Second, he pointed out the obvious, that the spiraling cost of healthcare (like our deficits) is unsustainable. Third, he acknowledged that there are people on both side of the aisle who are obstacles to progress. And fourth, he said, "I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn't, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch." I'm very much for healthcare reform, and support the concepts that Obama spoke of in his address to Congress. However, I have a healthy skepticism, and want to know more precisely how things will work, and more precisely how they will be paid for. Being told that it will work and that it won't cost taxpayers a dime doesn't do it for me. The idea of offsetting much of the cost by stopping excesses, abuses and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid doesn't do it for me either, since we shouldn't be paying for such waste in the first place. It also doesn't give me much confidence that government can manage a new program any better.