Stop the Madness: Health Care Reform Does Not Equal "Senior Death Warrant"

July 27, 2009

“Senior Death Warrant” is the title of a ridiculous chain email created to frighten the public as the Obama administration attempts to overhaul health care for first time in decades. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to laugh off this message, especially as it keeps appearing in forums and on other websites.

Here’s how it begins:

The actress Natasha Richardson died after falling skiing in Canada. It took eight hours to drive her to a hospital. If Canada had our healthcare she might be alive today. We now have helicopters that would have gotten her to the hospital in 30 minutes. Obama wants to have our healthcare like Canada ‘s and England’s.

In England anyone over 59 cannot receive heart repairs or stents or bypass because it is not covered as being too expensive and not needed.

I got this today and am sending it on. If Obama’s plans in other areas don’t scare you, this should. […]

Please do not let Obama sign senior death warrants.

Everybody that is on this mailing list is either a senior citizen, is getting close or knows somebody that is.

Most of you know by now that the Senate version (at least) of the “stimulus” bill includes provisions for extensive rationing of health care for senior citizens… The author of this part of the bill, former senator and tax evader, Tom Daschle was credited today by Bloomberg with the following statement. Bloomberg: Daschle says “health-care reform will not be pain free. Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them.”

For starters, here’s what found when it looked into the claim about people over age 59 not receiving coronary care in England:

We called the United Kingdom’s Department of Health and a spokesman told us: “It is not true that anyone aged over 59 years cannot receive heart repairs, stents or bypass surgery on the basis of their age.”

He also said that medical procedures in the U.K. are not routinely denied for older people. The National Health Service, the U.K.’s public health care service, has a constitution which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age and other factors. “The NHS Constitution states that the NHS provides a ‘comprehensive service, available to all irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief,’ ” the spokesman said.

We also contacted a nonprofit group, England’s Age Concern and Help the Aged, which works to stop age discrimination in various facets of life, including employment and health care. Age Concern’s press office had never heard of any kind of prohibition on heart surgery for those 60 and older.

Women, who generally live five to 10 years longer than men, need to know that health care reform in the United States will not lead to a rationing of care for seniors. Here’s what reports on the stimulus bill:

Some conservatives have said that a council overseeing the government’s funding of comparative effectiveness research (research into which medicines and procedures work best and are most cost-effective) will “ration” health care. But the council created by the stimulus legislation (now public law) doesn’t have any power to do that. In fact, the legislation stipulates that “[n]one of the reports submitted under this section or recommendations made by the Council shall be construed as mandates or clinical guidelines for payment, coverage, or treatment.”

As for former Sen. Tom Daschle, he never said, “Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them.” Here’s the real deal:

Instead, those are the words of the former Republican lieutenant governor of New York, Betsy McCaughey, who wrote an opinion piece for Bloomberg News and offered her reading of comments in Daschle’s book. Back in February, we dissected McCaughey’s column, pieces of which have popped up in chain e-mails, and found it to be full of errors. McCaughey also passes off opinion as fact, and in the case of Daschle, she paraphrases him, which is clear from the lack of quote marks in the column.

What Daschle did say is a far cry from “seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them.” Instead, he wrote (without mentioning age) in his book “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis”: “The use and overuse of new technologies and treatments is grounded in American culture. … More so than people in other countries, [Americans] just aren’t inclined to fatalistically accept a hopeless diagnosis or forgo experimental interventions if there is even the slightest chance of success.”

Plus: National Women’s Law Center is calling for a national call-in day on health reform on Tuesday, July 28 (that’s tomorrow). Call your U.S. representatives to tell them to support the House’s health care reform bill (H.R. 3200).

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