Death panels: fictional as always

Are there death panels operating in America’s healthcare system?


Dear Wondering,

Death panels are a fiction created by politicians.  There is no committee that decides whether a particular patient gets a particular treatment.

The fanfare arose when a new benefit was suggested for Medicare: physicians would be paid to talk with members about their end-of-life care plans.  (Physicians were already doing this, perhaps by charging the patient or perhaps by writing off the charge.)  This was construed, during the Obamacare debates, as encouraging older people to forgo expensive care.  Proponents felt that it was supporting a real need and helping people to have a plan, rather than leaving it to chance.  In the end, this new benefit was added through a regulatory process rather than by Congress.

Regardless of whether a person has an end-of-life care plan, health insurers are obligated to pay what their contract describes.  There are no clauses that allow the insurer to determine that a treatment is not “worth it” and therefore, not pay for it.

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.