When politicians score a large success … a major win … it’s almost immediately followed with a pro forma news release trumpeting the “victory” to the folks at home. Which makes the refusal to do that by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) more than a little unusual.

Actually, Blumenauer didn’t score the win. But he worked hard at getting it done. And even though his wasn’t the final push, he and Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) did a lot of groundwork and provided the spirited effort to keep the subject alive. As it were.

That subject: coverage of end-of-life counseling for those receiving Medicare. Thought it died when exorcized from the health care bill that eventually became law, did you? Well, surprise, surprise.

Pres. Obama quietly ordered the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to resurrect the end-of-life care issue by regulation. And it’s been done. Patients can schedule a discussion on the subject with their doctor and the doctor will be paid for professional services. All as it should be.

For those of us who live in a world of rational thought and prefer to deal with life’s realities as adults, my advice is to shove fingers in both your ears and keep them there for an extended period. Because the loud and prolonged screeching from wailin’ Palin, flatulent Limbaugh, looney Mr. Beck and other paranoids that “death panels” are back and government will “weed out the weak” has begun. Again. Still lies.

And that’s why Rep. Blumenauer sent out an all-but-secret email in November, saying the victory should be celebrated as a “quiet victory” and supporters should not “crow about it.”

“We would ask you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists,” he wrote, “even if they are ‘supporters.’ Email can be too easily forwarded. The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.” Further, he said later, “Lies can go viral if people use them for political purposes.”

Indeed they can. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 30% of Americans 65 and older believe the new health care law created a government panel to make decisions about end-or-life care for people on Medicare. No such provision exists. Or ever did.

While I admire Blumenauer and others for their hard work and the President for doing the right thing, I question efforts to keep secret such an important subject just because fear mongers, the paranoid and political self-servers will twist it for their own selfish ends. As they are now doing. Either this was the right thing to do and deserves a strong defense by rational people or it wasn’t. It was going to surface sooner or later.

Already, Elizabeth Wickham of LifeTree is ready for battle. LifeTree calls itself “a pro-life Christian educational ministry.” Somehow, Ms. Wickham believes end-of-life counseling would encourage patients to “forego or curtail care, thus hastening death.” She claims patients will lose the ability to control necessary treatments at the end of life.

Road apples! That’s not “Christian” or even “educational.” And it certainly is false “ministry.”

As someone old enough to have experienced death close-up a number of times … and probably because of my involvement in the hospice movement over the years … the issue of advance planning for end-of-life care has no down side. It is a win-win for all involved.

Planning for how I want my care handled near the end of life … when I may not be able to participate in any decisions … is the best way to express my autonomy. And to take large burdens off loved ones who will be drawn into that time, not knowing what I really wanted done. If anything.

To me, living wills and durable powers of attorney for health care are as important as life insurance. All are meant to ease pain, lessen stress and provide comfort. Not for us but for those we love.

You talk life insurance with a good agent. You talk legal documents with a good attorney. And you talk health issues and end-of-life care with a good doctor. It really is just that simple.

Unlike Mr. Blumenauer, I believe the President implemented this new regulation for good and reasonable purposes. I’ll defend it toe-to-toe with any nut job who sees conspiracy and “big government” fears.

This one’s worth fighting for. At home. Or in Washington, D.C., Sir.

Comments are closed.