Death panels are popping up all over

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By Consumers Union on Thursday, April 14th, 2011

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Death panels are popping up all over—and not from the health reform law. Oh, they don’t call themselves death panels, but they are groups of people deciding who lives and who dies.

Committees of lawmakers in state legislatures around the country are plugging their budget gaps by slashing Medicaid, leaving sick children, elderly in nursing homes, and those needing transplants out in the cold. And this is just a precursor to what we can look forward to if Rep. Paul Ryan gets his way in Congress. The House budget chairman wants to turn Medicaid over to state lawmakers to do with as they wish, and repeal the new healthcare law as well.

To get a gliimpse of that future, just look at what is happening now. State lawmakers are slashing the money paid to nursing homes–cuts so deep that many nursing homes face closure, with no immediate plan for the elders in their care. From CNN:

In Texas, for instance, [House] lawmakers are considering cutting provider rates by 10%, which would result in an overall 34% reduction once federal matching funds are factored in. Many nursing home operators say they could not afford to care for Medicaid patients for such low payments, putting 45,000 elderly Texans at risk of losing their beds.

Meanwhile, in Florida, state bureaucrats issued an emergency order last week slashing Medicaid spending for services that keep severely disabled people out of institutions. The order included no added funding for institutions.

Seriously ill people awaiting organ transplants in Arizona were literally pulled off the transplant lists last year when state lawmakers decided to cut transplant care.  After public outcry, transplants were finally put back in the budget last week, but the state is still pursuing other big healthcare cuts.

Where is the hew and cry about the ‘death panels’ now?

Its time we stop trying to solve our deficit problem by talking only about cuts to critical healthcare services. And its time Congress realizes that the new national health law is designed to do what the states’ can’t — help millions of hardworking Americans buy their own health coverage, rather than going without insurance and falling back on state programs when they get really sick.

By 2014, the health law provides tax credits to middle income families to help pay for insurance. Those credits, in combination with Medicaid’s safety net for the elderly and people with disabilities, will help end this annual battle in state capitols across the nation over who gets medical care and who doesn’t. Over who lives, and who dies.

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