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Friday, September 7, 2012

A Fate Worse than Death Panels

During the debate over healthcare reform, Republican legislators and their cohorts in the punditocracy warned darkly that a vote for Obamacare would lead inevitably to the formation of "death panels": bureaucratic troikas that would determine whether the elderly or infirm retained enough societal value to justify their continued existence; those deemed to have outlived their usefulness would be swiftly euthanized.  How we all enjoyed the spectacle of a sitting US President forced to assure the public that he had no grand plan to authorize the wholesale slaughter of the nation's grandmas.

Consider this: An article in today's Times explained that millions of low (and even not so low) income people depend on Medicaid for long-term care.  Since only a small number of people have insurance to cover them if they become incapacitated due to age or injury, millions must deplete their life savings--as well as those of their families--before ending up in nursing homes paid for by Medicaid.  If the Romney-Ryan budget is enacted, however, Medicaid will face massive cuts.

What, then, will happen to people like Rena Lull, 92, who has exhausted her savings to pay for  nursing-home care, and who now must turn over "all but $50 a month of her $969 income from social security and a pension toward the Medicaid cost of her shared room"?  What will happen to people like Elaine James, 76, who suffers from dementia and whose daughter has struggled to provide some minimum level of care?  Republicans have no good answer for that.

Railing against phantasmagorical "death panels" may make for good--or let's say effective--politics.  The GOP's positions on the realities of things like Medicaid and Medicare, though, seem far more likely to destroy our grandmas' quality of life.

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