Among all of the nonsense and hyperbole surrounding President Obama’s health care plan is the claim that one provision is for “death squads” that will make the decision whether people in need will live or die.  According to the conspiracy theory crowd that thrives on doom and gloom, if you are elderly or not a “valued” member of society, you can be denied health care under the President’s plan, and be allowed to die.

Like with most such rumors, somebody took a small kernel of fact and twisted it into a story to fit their purpose. The original plan called for free counseling to be made available to elderly Americans about advance directives and living wills. They would have the opportunity to make decisions for themselves, based upon their own beliefs and morals, about whether or not they want to be kept alive by artificial means if they become incapacitated or unable to speak for themselves in the future.

I have an advance directive ordering that, in the event of my becoming unable to make my own decisions, my wife has the authority to refuse to allow me to be hooked up to machines to keep me alive, if there is no hope of recovery. Anyone who has been to a Veterans Administration hospital, and most civilian hospitals, is asked if they have such a document, or if they want one.

So no, the government is not looking for an excuse to pull the plug on you if you need a hip replacement or other medical care. All they want to do is make you aware of your options, and allow you to make your own decisions about what you do and do not want done. There are no plans for government bureaucrats to rubber stamp “Dead” on your medical files. It’s just more right wing crapola.

However, we already have such “death squads” making life and death decisions for us, based solely upon dollars and cents. We’ve had them for years. They are called insurance companies. And you will never find a group of more cold hearted people then the bean counters at your favorite insurance company; those nice folks you pay those big premiums to every month. They think nothing of denying you the medical services you paid them to cover, for any reason they can dig up, if it can increase their bottom line.

Need a medical procedure that can keep you alive? Your medical professionals determine what you need, explain it to you, you make the decision to go forward, and they schedule it, right? You’d think that would be a no brainer.

But it doesn’t always happen that way. All too often, your doctor has to submit a request for authorization to your insurance company, where it is reviewed by somebody who works for that company, to determine if they will approve the procedure. Now, who do you think that employee has a vested interest in? You, or the outfit that pays him or her?

We have all heard the horror stories of insurance companies denying approval for needed medical procedures, or denying care completely, leaving clients who paid their premiums in good faith to suffer, in the name of the almighty dollar. I have experienced it in my own family.

Nine years ago, when my wife was diagnosed with Stage Four cervical cancer, the health insurance company we had faithfully paid our premiums to for years refused to cover any part of her treatment. Their reason? We had changed our state of residence from Arizona to Texas eighteen months earlier, and our policy had a 24 month exclusion for pre-existing conditions.

What we did not know, and what they never told us when we changed our legal domicile, was that even though the policy had been in force for years, the clock started ticking all over again the day we sent them our new address. They told me that if we still had Arizona listed as our address, she would have been covered. But because of the address change, she was left out in the cold. Some jackass sitting at a desk somewhere found a loophole and the company used it to screw us. My wife’s life meant nothing to them. Profit was all that mattered.

So how come people are all fired up about wild rumors with no basis in fact, yet we have tolerated the same thing by the private sector forever, and allowed insurance companies to make life or death decisions, based upon profit and loss?

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26 Comments on Health Care Death Squads Do Exist

  1. Dennis Murphy says:

    Bingo! The real “death squads” are masquerading as Insurance Companies and feeding us a line of BS. Take a look at the huge profits they are making while pumping up premiums due to “increasing health care costs”!

  2. Janis Thomas says:

    AMEN!!! You said it Nick. I work in the medical field and always fight with insurance companies to pay on claims. When I first started a few years ago, one insurance company denied CPR because it was not “pre-certed”. How ridiculus. Like the patient knew he was going to have a heart attack. They will find everything and anything to keep a tight grip on their money.

  3. Greg says:

    BINGO !!!

  4. What can we say? We’ve heard the stories as often as anyone else. There oughta be a law! Nick, you and Miss Terry took a situation that was horrendous and you lived through it, even though it ruined your credit. Stand up and take a much deserved bow for now standing up and telling your story! It’s a story that needs telling and telling again.

  5. Paul Bunyan says:

    government is the problem – because of laws on the books, insurance companies cannot sell health insurance across state lines – exactly why your situation occurred. What we need is the federal government not to provide healthcare, but to lift the regulations like the one above so that the open market can start to drive prices down like it has in almost every other facet of our economy.

  6. Denise Gray says:

    Nick, you are absolute right! I cannot believe that people believe that crapola, but I hear from people every day who do believe it. Unfortunately some of the same people believe that a government run program is a bad thing. I have had patients who have said to me that they don’t want the government taking over their Medicare! They don’t believe me when I politely suggest to them that Medicare is a government program. As is your VA benefit. It is too bad that the pundits are so partisan, that they cannot put aside their differences for the good of the country!

  7. MichaelG says:

    Actually, there’s another part of this story. England has something called “NICE”, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. It reviews various medical procedures, drugs and equipment, and decides what the English National Health Service is going to cover.

    From what I understand, they can be pretty arbitrary, and there’s no real appeal. If they decide a drug for end-stage cancer just doesn’t add enough years (on average) to justify the cost, then NHS doctors can’t prescribe it. If you have a cancer and want that drug, you would have to pay for it yourself.

    To make things worse, NHS has sometimes decided that, in the interest of “fairness”, if you are paying for any part of your health care, you should go completely private and pay for it all. Otherwise, richer people would start routinely “topping off” their NHS provided care with private extras.

    So in at least one case that was in the news, they dumped some woman who was buying a cancer drug from NHS completely. There was a stink about it, and I think they agreed to pay, but otherwise, she’d have had the choice of bankruptcy or death.

    The U.S. wants to institute a similar system (and I think we already have something related to Medicare that makes these decisions for that program.) So there could well be treatments that would work for people that you can’t get the government to pay for. There’s no bottomless pile of money out there to pay for all this, and if you want the government in the act, you are going to get some kind of rationing.

    Of course, the real problem here is that health care costs too much. If it were cheaper, health insurance companies wouldn’t have the incentive to nickel and dime you, and the government wouldn’t be talking about any kind of rationing. But since no one has talked about (or seems interested in talking about) costs, we’re still going to have rationing, both public and private.

  8. SAL Bellomo says:

    Thank you Nick you hit the nail on the head , we make the big Payments all is OK but get sick look out . If you make the big Dollars you get it all . SAL

  9. Paul says:

    I am Canadian and I will be the first to admit that our health care plan is not perfect it can not do miracles. My DW had a accident in 1981 that totally crushed her hand and severed her thumb. They reattached the thumb but because of the crush could not maintain the blood flow so it had to be removed. She then went to physiotherapy five times a week for a year and then three times per week for nine months to get the hand working again. After that they transplanted one of her toes to her hand in twelve hour operation lead by a world class doctor. Her hand works very well and for her it is like a miracle. All at no cost to us. I need to add that at the time of elections here all parties promise to improve public health care but even the most conservative of the conservative party ever talk about cancelling it.

  10. Jim says:

    I was diagnosed with Melanoma about ten years ago. At that time, my insurance was completely covered by my employer.

    I believe most people who oppose health care reform are already similarly covered.

    Since leaving that job, I have been denied affordable health insurance repeatedly because of a “pre-existing condition”, even though I have not had any recurrence.

    Health care reform in America should consist of what works in other countries, not what fails.

  11. Steve says:

    Good article, Nick.

    Too many people in this great country are denied or simply cannot afford basic health care.

    I recently received an email from my health insurance company urging me to oppose any heath care reform.

    I believe opponents of health care reforms are downright unpatriotic.
    The selfish greed of insurance companies is not what makes America great.

    The greatest country in the world should have the greatest health care system for ALL its citizens.

    The American Way has always been to help people in need. Emphasis should be on Americans first, but not exclusively.
    That is not socialism. It is uniquely American.

  12. Nick Russell says:

    Paul, your comment that “government is the problem – because of laws on the books, insurance companies cannot sell health insurance across state lines – exactly why your situation occurred” is incorrect.

    Our health insurance company DID also provide coverage in Texas as well as Arizona. If we had been Texas residents for 18 months we’d have had coverage. If we had maintained our Arizona address we’d have had coverage. Their loophole was that by changing addresses, the 24 month pre-existing exclusion started all over again. Before we changed adresses, we were very carful to ask if there would be any changes to the policy and they said no, we would have the same policy, just a new address on it.

    Believe it or not, the government is not to blame for everything that goes wrong, or for every injustice in the world.

  13. Nick Russell says:

    Steve,
    Messages from insurance companies urging citizens to oppose health care reform are a good example of those who are making huge profits under the current status quo and don’t want to see things change. A lot of the hype we are hearing originates from insurance companies and the medical establishment, who have had it their way forever, and don’t want the gravy train to dry up.

  14. Mark Harris says:

    Spoken like a true commie. Nick your socialist leanings are very transparent. Did you burn your raft card too? I wouldn’t doubt it. As a patriotic American I will just ignore you when we cross paths in the future.

  15. Kevin H says:

    Mark Harris – What the heck are you talking about????

  16. Martin says:

    Well I knew one those who chose to disagree would result to calling names instead of rendering a thoughtful response why you disagree. But a I suppose calling someone a “commie or a socialist” is just easier when you are mentally challenged.

  17. Charley Turner says:

    We too were denied necessary health care because our insurance company would not approve a procedure that would have saved my wife’s life. Three independent doctors all said it was needed and that she would die without it, including the one the insurance company sent us to after we lodged a complaint. They still refused it, and in January I buried the sweetest woman who every lived. Government healthy care may not be a perfect concept, but it damned sure can’t be worse than what we have going on in this country today. The insurance companies are against it and pay lobbyists to work on the lawmakers, and to hell with the people in need. National health care? Sign me up today!

  18. Dennis Murphy says:

    Apparently Mark Harris just wandered in here from another planet, since Nick mentioned in his blog just two days ago about getting a clean bill of health from THE VA HOSPITAL! Not to mention the fact that he served in Viet Nam.

  19. Rex Stowers says:

    I am all for getting the insurance companies, the lowest form of scum on this earth under control, but I do not think that we need a 1400 page document to do it. Insurance companies should only be allowed to ask two questions: 1, is the premium paid? and if the answer is yes, the next and only question they should be allowed to ask is “where do we send the check?”

    Remember, a governments job is to govern and not to compete with private enterprise.

  20. Ben B says:

    Health care reform will ruin our health delivery system and cost nearly $1B to insure an additional 10% of the population. Now, 83% are insured; the goal is 94%. We shouldn’t do it.

    A few new laws might make things better for the 10% remaining who want insurance. 1) get rid of group rates…make basic health insurance cost the same for anyone who wants to buy it; the nation as a whole becomes the group. Better plans with lower deductibles can cost more for those who want more, but basic insurance costs the same for everyone. 2) reduce the pre-existing condition wait time to 3 months…there needs to be an incentive to buy and keep insurance. You can’t just buy it when you’re sick and drop it when you’re well. 3) allow companies to sell high deductible catastrophic plans for the youngsters who aren’t worried about getting sick but might get into a car accident and go bankrupt. Even the illegals can get in on this!

    I could write that bill on one sheet of paper and submit it to congress tomorrow. And, every member of congress would read it :-).

    Ben

  21. Roger says:

    Nick:
    Thanks for the post. The one thing that irritates me the most is to hear someone talk about how they ‘don’t want some government bureaucrat making their health care decisions.’ The man who makes my health care decisions has made $1,600,000,000 in the last five years and could care less about my health. I’d much rather have a $40,000 a year bureaucrat with no vested interest in the outcome making the decision.
    Most people don’t realize that about 15% of the total payments for health insurance in the US are spent finding ways to deny coverage to eligible people. That’s why we pay so much more than other countries do for medical coverage.

    Keep up the good work!

  22. Shelly Sauder says:

    I’m sorry, but you will never convince me that the government can do a better job at anything then the private sector can, and for less money.

  23. Dale says:

    There should be no “pre-existing condition” wait times. Private insurance is not a panacea – when our daughter was sick – even with a fantastic insurance policy – we paid thousands and thousands of dollars out-of-pocket in co-pays and “out-of-network” doctors.

    As to “basic” health insurance to be purchased by individuals, who will regulate the rules for companies to abide by when selling these health insurance policies? Would they have, because they are private, carte blanche rights to do pretty much what they want, just like the banks and credit card companies are doing now?

    No one wants the government in their homes, or over their shoulders on a daily basis, but without government guidelines (called laws), this country would cease to operate the way we know it. Greed would win out – and all the privileges we have fought so hard for – would be memories.

    Look through history and see what the greed of private companies has done. Unions arose as a result of the greed of private companies and the many deaths that resulted from greed and the horror tactics utilized to maximize monetary results, e.g., the ILGWU.

    There is no easy solution to any of the problems this country now faces. The one solution that should be obvious to anyone is cooperation, not the divisiveness that is now so obvious.

    Finally, a one page bil, is full of loopholes, loopholes that can be manipulated by private companies and then, who will be there to protect you?

  24. Ben B says:

    Government’s role would be to define “basic” health care benefits. I suggest “basic” means a 20-25% copay, $250-500 deductible, and covers what medicare covers now. A more expensive, optional, plan might have no deductibles, no copays, and add coverage for dental braces and hearing aids. An optional plan might even cover some experimental procedures.

    All insurance companies would be required to offer the basic plan. Within any individual company, anyone who wants to purchase a basic plan can do so for the same price that anyone else pays. Insurance companies would still compete with each other for customers.

    So, my bill is now two pages…congress could still read it :-).

  25. Linda says:

    I am a hypertensive, diabetic that has had 2 heart attacks and just last week was diagnosed with ostoporosis. I am going to loose my company sponsered health care plan at the end of the month (Cobra = $1000 per month). Can any one tell me where I can find an affordable healthcare plan (on a fixed income)for the next 6 years till I’m eligible for Medicare? What’s worse, no coverage or a government backed plan? From where I sit something is better than nothing.

  26. Bob B says:

    Here’s what Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s Labor Secretary said in a Sept 2007 speech at UC Berkeley: “What An Honest President Would Say About Health Reform”.

    “And by the way, we’re going to have to, if you’re very old, we’re not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It’s too expensive…so we’re going to let you die.”

    Robert Reich is now a personal consultant to President Obama.

    And here’s the YouTube video link.

    Click Here

    Don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want Robert Reich deciding my fate.

    Now we’re told that we should look to the UK to emulate their system. Right!!!!

    Here’s a guy in the UK who was wrongly diagnosed and left to die without food, water and medication except painkillers. Of course there wasn’t a death panel involved. They called it a ‘death pathway’

    Click Here

    And here’s another person who was left to die in the UK after the “Liverpool care pathway plan” decided the 80 year woman only had a few days to live. They left her to die without food and water until her daughter intervened. She’s still alive 9 months later and doing fine. Of course, this was a “pathway plan”, and not a death panel.

    Click Here

    And this gentleman in the UK has been trying to get his broken arm operated on for 10 months.

    Take a look at his picture on the link. His arm looks like a pretzel.

    Click Here

    And he’s still waiting.

    Sounds like a healthcare plan I’m looking forward to.

    And lastly, here’s a woman who was a speechwriter for John Edwards, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and others, preparing speeches, talking points, op-eds, and debate prep material on the topic of healthcare.

    Click Here

    As a self-employed person in Washington DC, she had a great healthcare plan with an HMO that she loved. It cost her $220 a month plus $10 for a dental discount. Note this was not an employer-supplied plan. She was able to buy this on her own.

    Then she moved to Massachusetts, a state with universal healthcare, that President Obama has held to the nation as a model for America. And she was very surprised at how her plan had changed.

    The same basic plan that cost her $220 in DC would now cost her $550 a month in MA. And now she can’t afford her healthcare anymore. Because MA has the highest health insurance premiums in the country. Isn’t ‘Universal Healthcare’ wonderful?

    And yet the ideas that worked so well in MA are supposed to save us money and make healthcare affordable for everyone.

    RIGHT !!!!!!

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