U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley has been taking a lot of heat for continuing to spread the debunked rumor that end-of-life planning provisions included in proposed health care legislation could lead to government-mandated euthanasia of the elderly, going as far as to strip them from a version of the bill currently before his committee.
But Amy Sullivan at Time Magazine has found that long before Grassley was a crusader against this type of counseling, he actually voted to support it.
Remember the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, the one that passed with the votes of 204 GOP House members and 42 GOP Senators? Anyone want to guess what it provided funding for? Did you say counseling for end-of-life issues and care? Ding ding ding!!Let’s go to the bill text, shall we? “The covered services are: evaluating the beneficiary’s need for pain and symptom management, including the individual’s need for hospice care; counseling the beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising the beneficiary regarding advanced care planning.” The only difference between the 2003 provision and the infamous Section 1233 that threatens the very future and moral sanctity of the Republic is that the first applied only to terminally ill patients. Section 1233 would expand funding so that people could voluntarily receive counseling before they become terminally ill.
So either Republicans were for death panels in 2003 before turning against them now–or they’re lying about end-of-life counseling in order to frighten the bejeezus out of their fellow citizens and defeat health reform by any means necessary. Which is it, Mr. Grassley?
Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, who has already issued several harsh statements regarding Grassley’s comments, pounced on the news, saying Iowa’s senior senator is engaging in doublespeak.
“Sen. Grassley continues to repeat the ridiculous claim that paying doctors to discuss end-of-life care with their patients is somehow ‘pulling the plug on grandma,’ yet in 2003 he voted for a bill with a nearly identical provision allowing Medicare to reimburse doctors for end-of-life care consultations,” Braley said.
On Thursday night’s Rachel Maddow Show, the host pointed out another area of confusion about Grassley’s stance. He told a Panora crowd on Wednesday that end-of-life planning “ought to be done within the family and considered a religious and ethical issue and not something that politicians deal with.”
But in 2005, Grassley supported government intervention into the end-of-life choices of Terri Shiavo, a brain damaged Florida woman who had remained in a vegetative state for 15 years. The U.S. Senate voted unanimously for legislation that required a federal judge to review whether her husband could remove her feeding tube, something he said she had requested.
After passage of the legislation, Grassley released a statement saying he “supports the effort to protect Terri Schiavo. It’s the first case of its kind, a chance to choose life over death. I gave the option to life.”
UPDATE: Sen. Grassley’s office has issued to following statement in response to Braley’s recent press releases:
“I’m shocked that Congressman Braley would attack a fellow Iowan before getting all of the facts. His statements over the past two days have been riddled with misinformation about what was said in my town meetings, and now he’s taking my vote in 2003 completely out of context. If Congressman Braley had actually listened to what I’ve said on this subject, he’d know that my support for the provisions in the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) are in line with my long-held view that advanced care planning is a good thing for families to do.
The MMA offers terminally ill patients a pain and care management evaluation and counseling about hospice care and other options. And it offers optional advice from a specialized hospice physician on advanced care planning. One could be assured that the provision of advice on advanced care planning in this context can be done in a correct manner and by an appropriate provider. I can’t say the same thing about what would happen under the provisions in the Pelosi bill.
Under the Pelosi bill, all physicians risk losing quality bonus payments unless they report on whether they provide advanced care planning and adherence to that plan. Congressman Braley also misses the larger point when he fails to realize that the concerns about the advanced planning provisions in the Pelosi bill are made because they are proposed in the context of a bill that is ostensibly working to save money by spending less on health care in health care reform, and in a bill that creates a government-run plan that will surely lead to rationing of health care just like has happened in other countries that have government-run systems. It’s plain to see why Iowans and others are legitimately concerned about the unintended consequences of the House bill.”
Oh, Chuck...you just keep right on digging that hole!