Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Death Panels" Are Real - They Come From Your Insurance Policy

I was glad to see that former Gov. Sarah Palin was forced to choke on her own words thanks to a major blast of reality from folks like my blogging friend Southern Beale.

Palin's idiotic "government death panels" are fantasy, but the reality is insurance companies DO have them, as Beale experienced first-hand. Her blog post has been rocketing around the internet:

I’ve been part of a death panel conversation. I know about death panels.

You have no idea what it’s like to be called into a sterile conference room with a hospital administrator you’ve never met before and be told that your mother’s insurance policy will only pay for 30 days in ICU. You can't imagine what it's like to be advised that you need to “make some decisions,” like whether your mother should be released “HTD” which is hospital parlance for “home to die,” or if you want to pay out of pocket to keep her in the ICU another week. And when you ask how much that would cost you are given a number so impossibly large that you realize there really are no decisions to make. The decision has been made for you. "Living will" or no, it doesn't matter. The bank account and the insurance policy have trumped any legal document.

If this isn’t a “death panel” I don’t know what is.

So don’t talk to me about “death panels” you heartless, cruel, greedy sons of bitches, who are only too happy to keep the profits rolling in to the big insurance companies while you spout your mealy-mouthed bumper sticker slogans about the evils of socialism. You don't even know what socialism is. You don't know what government healthcare is."

Other tales of of the way our current insurance systems operate (or fail to provide for operations perhaps) are in Salon today.

At KnoxViews, TN Senator Lamar Alexander says no reform bill currently being debated is worthwhile. Certainly, what is being termed "debate" has no value.

At MetaFilter, their readers comment on the way wild rumors are getting credibility thanks to enablers from the lunatics and protectors of big insurance companies with some humor:

Two recent concerns appear to have been omitted:

(1) "Obama's gonna EAT mah BABY!!1"


(2) "Keep the government out of my Medicare!"


"I'm convinced Americans have gradually been duped into becoming the best consumers in the world: a whole nation full of dyed-in-the-wool suckers whose biggest blind-spot is thinking ourselves savvier than everyone else.

So we gladly pay for food packed with cheap fillers (practices like injecting water into meat products to weigh them down that might have gotten a butcher's hand chopped off in a medieval marketplace are routine in ours). And by default, the beverages in restaurants and bars come with more ice than beverage in them. And our health insurance policies feature high deductibles and so many exclusions they don't even cover things as fundamental to human health and continued existence as childbirth. Hell, after Katrina, how many people in the affected regions were astonished to learn that their catastrophic hurricane insurance included a flooding exclusion that allowed insurers to get out of paying claims if they could demonstrate virtually any degree of water damage (even if the damage was due to rain coupled with wind damage, not flooding)?

And yet, we always remain convinced that the choices we have as consumers are better than the equivalent choices available to consumers in any other part of the world. My first extended stay in Germany, seeing first hand that my mom and my sisters, even living near the bottom of the economic ladder as they did, ate better food and enjoyed a better quality of life and higher standard of health care than virtually any American I knew--man, that was something.


  1. Anonymous10:37 AM

    And we think that government funded insurance is going to be better. It is still insurance and the money will still run out and we will be told to go home and die. We don't need more taxes to pay for a national healthcare plan. The states should decide for themselves. Tennessee has a government funded plan, does it work? I'll have to ask my German friends about German healthcare and the tax rates they enjoy. Thanks Joe for a place to find the other side that actually gives some detail and not just rhetoric from a liberal, or Republican.



  2. some loud folks are sure deeply misinformed or just lying about a range of issues outside of Congress too - lobbying groups and some other politically funded operations are working hard to make sure no sense can be made and no real debate takes place.

  3. sorry about the length...

    Joe, I have an issue with Todd's comment: the states should *not* decide for themselves. This is not a states rights issue, it's a public health/safety issue. There needs to be no variation from state to state. That was one of the problems with TennCare: bordering states didn't have something equivalent so people came from KY, VA, NC, GA, etc. to get TennCare benefits at the expense of one state.

    Yes, I do favor a public healthcare system- strongly. I would be OK with a public option, as a first step.

    There is no valid reason to continue treating healthcare as a private service, available to those who can afford it. Fire insurance used to work the way health insurance does. You purchased fire insurance, then you had fire protection through your insurance company. If your neighbor didn't purchase insurance, he had no fire protection. If his house caught on fire, no one came to put it out. If his house fire spread to yours, THEN you had protection. Only after the fire had spread to your house would someone come to put it out, even though putting out his fire would have prevented damage to your home. The lunacy in that arrangement was eventually seen, and fire protection was removed from the private sector and is now funded by taxes. Does anyone call that "socalized fire fighting?"

    Now- the talking points.
    "Death panels"- I think you and Beale have covered that.
    "Rationing health care"- Beale hits that as well.
    "Long waiting time"- I personally know someone who had a skin cancer. She has very good insurance through her employer. It was FIVE MONTHS from the time her doctor saw it to the time it was removed. She had an appointment 2 months earlier, but it was canceled (with 2 days notice) by the dr's office because even though they are in her network, the surgeon THEY referred her to isn't. Luckily for her, her employer's insurance broker was able to get the dr's office to refer her to a network surgeon. If not for that, she would have had to start the process all over again. I would rather wait a couple of months for a routine checkup (which I ALREADY DO at the kids' pediatrician) than wait 5 months for skin cancer treatment to BEGIN.

    I welcome debate on this comment.