Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Death Panels are here

During the dust-up over health care reform, opponents (that is to say every Republican in Congress)resorted to some pretty low tactics in their attempt to defeat the measure. Not the least of these was (mis)applying the term "Death Panels" to describe a perfectly reasonable provision which would have paid for "end of life" discussions with one's physician.

Sadly this tactic and others were largely successful with the result that the "offending" provision was dropped and the overall final bill that was passed was a mere skeleton of the type of reform that was really required to fix our dysfunctional health care system. Even that, of course, was too much for Republicans so now promising to repeal "Obamacare" has become a central issue for every Republican candidate for President (even, ironically, Mitt Romney).

Now the specter of "death panels" is again on the political horizon but this time it's not the Godless liberals who will create them; this time the Republican themselves, with the Tea Party leading the charge, will create the emergence of "death panels" in the form of budget-cutting legislative panels that reduce or eliminate funding for programs that are vital to the well-being of our neediest citizens.

As a prime illustration of how these "death panels" will come to be, Maine Governor Paul LePage has proposed drastic (I don't think "Draconian" is too strong a word) cuts to the budget of MaineCare, which provides health care insurance and services for the state's poorest residents. The probable effects on the program if the cuts are imposed are dire; it's certain that tens of thousands of Mainers, most of them elderly, disabled or dirt-poor, will lose their access to any health care (except by going to an emergency room). Inevitably some of these unfortunate souls will suffer an untimely, unnecessary demise for lack of proper medical care. The Legislature, if it passes the Governor's budget cuts, will be the literal "Death Panel" that ordained this result.

I'm not trying to say the we don't have a budget crisis, either at the Federal or State level, that needs to be addressed. But to address it strictly with budget
cuts that will cripple vital programs (yes, I consider health care to be a vital program) is unconscionable. Unless we consider sources of additional revenue (aka "higher taxes") to fund agencies that provide services critical to the well-being of those in need, then "the die is cast" and "Death Panels" will be the result.

Of course Republicans have taken a pledge (to a lobbyist, no less) not to raise taxes on anybody, ever, and they will fight against anyproposal that would increase revenue (unless it involves making even the poorest wage-earners pay some income tax)so I think it's fair to say that when the "Death Panels" emerge, they will own them - which is only fair since they created the concept. How can they live with themselves, I wonder?

"What goes around, comes around."

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