Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
I received a request from a reader about the bill that Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) sponsored to allow Medicare reimbursements to doctors for end of life consultation. It turns out he originally sponsored this bill when he was a member of the House, and it was not controversial. Think Progress » Sen. Johnny Isakson: Palin’s ‘Death Panel’ Talk Is ‘Nuts’:
In recent weeks, conservatives have attacked a small provision in the House-proposed health care legislation that would broaden Medicare to cover counseling sessions for seniors who want to consider their end-of-life choices. Last week, Sarah Palin claimed President Obama plans to institute bureaucratic “death panels.” While some conservatives rejected Palin’s terrifying claims as “crazy,” others sought to keep the fear-mongering alive. Fox News pundit Glenn Beck announced he believes it to be “true.” Newt Gingrich also agreed with Palin.
Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein spoke with Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), a member of the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Isakson “co-sponsored 2007’s Medicare End-of-Life Planning Act and proposed an amendment similar to the House bill’s Section 1233 during the Senate HELP Committee’s mark-up of its health care bill.” He told Klein that the “death panel” talk is “nuts”:
KLEIN: How did this become a question of euthanasia?
ISAKSON: I have no idea. I understand — and you have to check this out — I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up. [...]
It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.
Isakson, who has also expressed support for a public health care option, has been promoting advance care planning for years. In 2005, while citing the case of Terri Schiavo, Isakson teamed with state lawmakers to publicly sign a personal “Directive for Final Health Care” to encourage Georgians to discuss their personal wishes for end-of-life care. And Isakson isn’t the only GOP senator who supports the provision; Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) “sponsored a virtually identical initiative this spring.”
Political Animal’s Steve Benen concludes: “Assorted wingnuts and Tea Baggers may not believe the administration, Democrats, objective news sources, or the plain black-and-white text of the legislation, but they should at least be willing to consider reality from one of the Senate’s most conservative members.”
At his town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire today President Obama Delivers Remarks on Health Care at N.H. Town Hall Meeting, President Obama pointed oth the irony of Johnny Isakson sponsoring this provision.
But let me just be specific about some things that I've been hearing lately that we just need to dispose of here. The -- the rumor that's been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for death panels that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we've decided that we don't -- it's too expensive to let her live anymore. And there are various -- there are some variations on this -- this theme.
It turns out that I guess this arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, et cetera. So the intention of the members of Congress was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they're ready on their own terms. It wasn't forcing anybody to do anything. This is, I guess, where the rumor came from.
The irony is that actually one of the chief sponsors of this bill originally was a Republican, then-House member, now Senator named Johnny Isakson from Georgia who very sensibly thought this is something that would expand people's options, and somehow it's gotten spun into this idea of death panels. I am not in favor of that. So just so I want to -- I want to clear the air here.
The White House has launched a new Web site to debunk some of the crazier ideas floating around about healthcare reform, Health Insurance Reform Reality Check.
UPDATE: Taking heat from Rush and Newt, Johnny? Sen. Isakson has issued a press release "denouncing" the President's remarks today linking him to the health care reform bill. Johnny Isakson, United States Senator from Georgia:
U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today denounced comments made by President Obama and his spokesman regarding Isakson’s alleged connection to language contained in the House health care bill on “end-of-life counseling.”
Isakson vehemently opposes the House and Senate health care bills and he played no role in drafting language added to the House bill by House Democrats calling for the government to incentivize doctors by offering them money to conduct “end-of-life counseling” with Medicare patients every five years. Isakson also strongly opposed the House bill language calling for doctors to follow a government-mandated list of topics to discuss with patients during the counseling sessions.
By contrast, Isakson took a very different approach in July during the Senate HELP Committee hearings on the Senate version of the health care bill. Isakson’s amendment to the Senate bill says that anyone who participates in the long-term care benefit provided in the bill – if they so choose – may use that benefit to obtain assistance in formulating their own living will and durable power of attorney.
Isakson’s amendment, which was accepted unanimously by all Republicans and Democrats on the Senate HELP Committee, empowers the individual to make their own choices on these critical issues, rather than the government incentivizing doctors to conduct counseling on government-mandated topics. Isakson ultimately voted against the Senate health care bill.
UPDATE II: Jed lewison at Daily Kos comments on Isakson's flip-flop Daily Kos: Isakson backs off criticism of deathers:
It's yet another example that if you're a Republican and you criticize
Rush Limbaugh Glenn Beck teabaggers birthersdeathers, there's only one thing you can do if you want to stay in the party: you flip-flop as fast as you can.
Update (5:04PM): John Cole wraps it up nicely:
In for a penny, in for a pound. There is simply nothing these guys will not lie about, and they have no problem reversing course hours after publicly stating something completely different. The facts are just optional with these guys. They just don’t care if they tell the truth, they are not ashamed to lie at will, and no one in the media will hold them accountable.
Isakson is up for re-election in 2010, and he knows how wingnutty the base is. He has to play to the Palin wing or he will get primaried. That is how crazy the GOP is these days.