Health reform death panels

I have MS, which will eventually progress to the point where I need expensive care.  So I’m worried about how I will get care after 2014, when health reform kicks in (assuming it is not de-railed between now and then).  How many people are on the death panel created by the health reform law and how will they decide who gets what care?

Worried Sick

Dear Worried Sick,

The number of people on the death panel: none.

The number of decisions to be made by bureaucrats about a patient’s care: none.

The health care law does not create any panel of judges to decide whether a person should or should not get a particular treatment. This was a distorted version of a small Medicare change. Under the change, Medicare will pay for a physician to discuss end-of-life care planning with his/her patient. This change actually was made, through a regulatory process.

Nowhere in the law is there a provision for non-medical people to dictate medical decisions. All care decisions would continue to be made by physicians and patients.

Making decisions about care is not the same as paying for care, however.  People generally assume that because a health plan will not pay for a particular treatment, the patient is forced to do something else.  Granted, if the treatment is extremely expensive, the patient may not be able to afford it without the health plan’s help.  But there are no circumstances where a person’s health plan prohibits him from getting care.

There are other safeguards in health reform, such as eliminating annual maximum benefits and requiring insurers to sell to all customers, regardless of their health status.  All of these will help you to get and keep health insurance, and to ensure that your health insurance does not leave you high and dry when you need it.

Many of the rumors about health reform are distorted versions of the truth.  So, you can breathe a sigh of relief and not worry yourself sick.

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Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.