Obama takes on insurers, ‘death panels’

President Barack Obama used his weekly radio address Saturday to take on the health insurance industry and charges that “death panels” will be set up under healthcare reform legislation.

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Obama, who is holding three town halls this week in an effort to build public opinion for a healthcare overhaul, said today’s system works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people.

“And that’s why we’re going to pass health insurance reform that finally holds the insurance companies accountable,” he said.

Obama put the blame for this week’s debate on “death panels” on special interests and their political allies who he said are seeking to “scare and mislead” the public.

The death panel discussion started after former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, said congressional legislation would set up death panels that would make life or death care decisions on the elderly, on even on people with Down’s Syndrome such as Palin’s son.

The White House has fought back fiercely at the charge, labeling it as false, and noting that the legislation in the House simply extends Medicare coverage to end of life consultations between doctors and patients.

They’ve received support from Republicans such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.)and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ala.), who labeled the death panel suggestion as “nuts.”

Obama referenced Isakson’s comments in his radio address.
 
The idea that “death panels” will decide whether senior citizens get to live or die is a “ridiculous rumor,” he said.

“That rumor began with the distortion of one idea in a congressional bill that would allow Medicare to cover voluntary visits with your doctor to discuss your end-of-life care – if and only if you decide to have those visits,” Obama said. He said it would have nothing to do with putting government in control of your decisions.

“When a conservative Republican senator who has long-fought for even more far-reaching proposals found out how folks were twisting the idea, he called their misrepresentation, and I quote, ‘nuts,’” Obama said.

Supporters of Palin have said the end of life discussions could involve talk of limiting resources to patients. Palin herself re-entered the debate earlier this week, saying the consultations are a part of a bill whose purpose is “to reduce the growth in healthcare spending.”

“Is it any wonder that senior citizens might view such consultations as attempts to convince them to help reduce health care costs by accepting minimal end-of-life care?” she posted on Facebook.
 
Obama said his opponents “will say anything to scare you” about the cost of healthcare reform, but do not talk of the cost of inaction.

He said over the past three years, 12 million Americans were discriminated against by insurance companies, or saw their coverage denied or dropped when they got sick.

He charged that if reform legislation isn’t taken on, average family premiums will keep rising to more than $22,000 within a decade.

“So when folks with a stake in the status quo keep inventing these boogeymen in an effort to scare people, it’s disappointing, but it’s not surprising,” he said.

He compared it to those who warned the creation of Social Security would force Americans to wear dog tags, and to those who said the creation of Medicare would lead to socialized medicine.

“Not only were those fears never realized, but more importantly, those programs have saved the lives of tens of millions of seniors, the disabled, and the disadvantaged,” he said.

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