We already have “death panels” — they’re called health insurance companies

So, the new talking point from the far-right is that Obama’s health care plan is a secret plot to kill your grandma (as seen on Fox News and Sarah Palin’s Facebook page). They claim that the bill will create “death panels” to decide whether elderly people are worthy of care or not.

There’s no truth to this conspiracy, of course. The provision they point to is one for voluntary end-of-life counseling, which was actually proposed by a Republican and is overall a pretty good idea.

However, there already is an entity that will sit in judgment of you when you get sick, deciding whether you are worthy of treatment. It is official policy among the private health care providers in the US to look for ways to deny care to sick people.

They are perfectly happy taking your money when you aren’t sick, but once you try to make a claim they will scour through your record looking for any reason to deny your claim. A small error on your application form, even an insignificant one or one that you could not have known about or fixed, becomes justification for revoking your coverage and handing you the hefty bill for your treatment. For many patients unable to pay for the treatment, this is a death sentence.

Forget a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor; this is a profit-driven corporation standing between you and your doctor.

Why does the right worry about their fake, hypothetical “death panels” when a more serious and sinister problem already exists, and is already killing innocent people?

About probabilityZero

I'm a rather boring, geeky college student. Most of my time is spent at a computer, reading a book, or sitting in (mostly uninteresting) classes. My hobbies include reading, blogging, creating and running websites, creating amateur video games, arguing incessantly on discussion forums, and buying books on amazon.com because I'm too lazy to go to the library.
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46 Responses to We already have “death panels” — they’re called health insurance companies

  1. duracell says:

    Heh, if anyone’s out to kill grandma it’s these guys.

    “They’re f——g taking all the money back from you guys?” complains an Enron employee on the tapes. “All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?”

    “Yeah, grandma Millie, man”

    “Yeah, now she wants her f——g money back for all the power you’ve charged right up, jammed right up her a—— for f——g $250 a megawatt hour.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    The republicants can’t even lie and make it believable.

  3. Wim says:

    I really don’t get all these problems. Are people over there really THAT stupid? F-cking hell..

    I heard that without an insurance you have much chance of not being able to get even in a hospital, or in some you have to sleep on the corridor. Is this true?

    Now I think of it, actually the people against health care reform are saying “God bless America except for those f-cks who haven’t got an insurance or can’t afford one”, aren’t they? They should be ashamed of theirselves!

  4. nev says:

    those enron guys were evil bastards… I hope theyre enjoying their prison cells

  5. Phil E. Drifter says:

    Personally, I don’t think everyone is entitled to healthcare. Before you attack me for saying what I just did, think for a minute.

    People who are born are usually covered by their parents’ insurance until the age of 18, when they legally become adults. of course you’ll say ‘well what if the parents are unemployed or dont have insurance?’ well then they’re not taking the best care of their children, are they? That doesn’t entitle the children to healthcare, the children are unfortunate, sure, but where is the money for their healthcare going to come from?

    Another point to be made is, sadly, a lot of people don’t really care about their own health, they just expect to be taken care of if something develops. I was just as guilty as those people, I was a habitual smoker for 14 years. Why should I have healthcare when I’m intentionally killing myself slowly with every cigarette I smoke. (I recently quit just over a week ago, ironically not because of the health issue but because $6/pack, pack/day is just too expensive.)

    If you’re a smoker, employed and eligible for health care insurance, great, but if you’re a smoker, you shouldn’t be entitled to any respiratory health care (lung transplants, mouth cancer surgery, etc). You SHOULD however, be eligible to receive ‘quit smoking’ help from your insurance provider, both in the form of cessation programs (patches, gums) and socialization programs. But the bottom line on smoking is, you have to *want* to quit. I mean, really, truly want to quit. And if you do, then quitting is incredibly easy. The most difficult part about it is that cancer sticks are available at every DRUG store and convenience store in the country.

    You can’t just be a citizen and have that alone be your reasoning behind health care. You have to contribute to society, you have to ‘earn your keep,’ so to speak. Just because you’re alive and you’re a citizen of the US does not entitle you to heath care. If you don’t care about your health (smoking, chronic eating combined with little/no physical activity = weight gain to the point of obesity) why should it cost someone else to take care of you when not even *you* are attempting to take care of yourself?

  6. Philip says:

    Phil. E Drifter,
    “You can’t just be a citizen and have that alone be your reasoning behind health care. You have to contribute to society, you have to ‘earn your keep,’ so to speak.”

    I think that’s called paying taxes.

  7. Matt says:

    Phil, your logic suggests then that children should go uninsured simply because of something that is not within their control – and then you ask where the money is going to come from. Are you really placing monetary value above the life of another human? How disgustingly inconsiderate. You may as well also say that we should stop helping all third world nations and anybody that is in need of any form of support (but cannot afford it).

    Why should we help even those who do health-damaging activities? Because keeping track of every single health-related issue is impossible, and a country would potentially become a dictatorship if it were to watch every health habit of every citizen. Want to punish people’s health benefits for smoking? Fine, then let’s take your logic further. Every time you drive recklessly (which includes minor things like speeding), every time you eat fast food or any food that is detrimental to your health, every time you barbecque (since grills are known to be one of the highest sources of carcinogens), and any time you participate in any activity in which your body may be at some sort of risk of injury, your health benefits should be taken away, because hell, I’m not paying for your stupidity! Do you see now why your idea is completely unfeasible and unrealistic, and above all immoral? It is self-destructive to society.

    By the way, quitting smoking is not a matter of simply wanting to do it. It is a physical addiction – not a mental one. Your brain inherently fiends for nicotine once you have become addicted to it – and you will suffer withdrawal symptoms. We can try applying your “you just have to WANT to quit!” logic to another drug, say Heroin. Heroin physical addictions can reach the point where you actually will die if you do not regularly supply your body with more of it.

    And if being a citizen does not entitle you to health care, then by what measure should we say whether or not someone should be allowed to recieve funded health care? You may as well just say that you support letting people die because you feel they are too lazy and/or unproductive. Personally, my conscience would not be very supportive of that.

    Society works collectively. We need each other to progress – and we must always help each other. The British health system is a much better alternative to what you suggest (where doctors are payed extra if they can get their patients to stop smoking) I believe it was once said that the morality of a society can be judged by how they treat the lowest of their members. Any civilized, modern culture should reach out and provide health care to all of the humans that reside within it – and nothing less – and it is a long-term investment – by treating all of your citizens equally and maintaining their health to the utmost standards, a nation is bound to succeed in the long run, because it promotes a collective, productive population.

  8. Shannon says:

    I have to agree with Matt. I didn’t understand why the right wing nut jobs were yammering on and on about “death panels” and all that jazz. Anyone taking a simple philosophy class will know that “death panels” are for end of life termination. That means Ralphie with the terminal brain cancer can appeal to a board to have physician assisted suicide if he doesn’t deem his life worth living anymore.

    Not “oh my baby has down syndrome, Obama is going to kill him.”

    Uh, really? What about the uninsured children with down syndrome whose parents can’t afford the private insurance that companies like to shove down their throats but make too much money for government funded programs? Hmmm?

    Or what about the 75 year old lady whose husband died, taking away her private insurance and is on Medicaid or Medicare but can’t afford the $2000.00 in perscription pill every month without it.

    What do you people think that those programs are? Do you think that money came out of nowhere? Damnit people, the taxes that you pay every year, every paycheck, every dime of that goes to government funded programs, including insurance for people who can’t afford it. Yes, you are paying for other people’s insurance. And if you need it when you get old, yours as well. You pay for procedures that are done completely for FREE for people who dont even have citizenship. But god forbid a forward thinking president says “hey, let’s get together and make something work for our country and help our citizens. Oh, by the way, you can keep your private insurance but we are going to let Bill over there with the swine flu get some help because he can’t afford the $200 bill to see the doctor.” But nooooo, God forbid anyone in this country helps another human being.

    I think it would kill some of you to help out instead of going “MEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEME.”

    I have to agree with some that Obama is moving too fast. He should have implemented this idea later on with a better thought out plan but the basis is simple enough: EVERYONE NEEDS HEALTHCARE. I know that personally, if my company didn’t pay the $416.00 bill every month to cover me, I wouldn’t have insurance. And then if I got swine flu, I’d make sure to cough on everyone who is against the healthcare reform.

    You have my word.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Heroin detox doesn’t kill. Booze and Benzos do, though, and those are legal.

  10. Evan says:

    Phil E. Drifter, you are aware that everything you’ve said applies equally well to government-provided fire protection, national defense, police protection, etc., correct? A person hasn’t “earned” fire protection solely by virtue of being a citizen any more than they’ve earned health insurance, and people certainly do careless things that can cause fires (including smoking, in fact), but we still have taxpayer-funded fire departments that cover everyone in their jurisdiction regardless of ability to pay. Are you saying that all these services should no longer be provided as well?

  11. John Crovis says:

    I understand your argument for personal responsibility. However, I think it is misinformed. Part of the problem with your logic is that you are assuming that the health insurance lobby will take care of those who pay for their insurance… Due to “preexisting conditions” contractual loopholes, and arbitrary limits placed on coverage, this isn’t true. You are also assuming that the reason why most people do not have insurance is because they are dead beats and/or are self-destructive in regards to their own health. This is a gross misunderstanding of the situation – the reasons why so many people do not have health insurance are usually due the insane inflation of health-care premiums in this country. To reduce the price of health insurance, we need to do two things; we need a Public Option that competes against the insurance industry, and we need to dismantle the Anti-Trust exemption of the Health Insurance industry.
    The approach that democrats are taking in congress doesn’t eliminate personal responsibility from the equation… You still have to pay for your own health insurance. The difference is that we are making it a more fair deal from the consumer end. Makes sense?


  12. Michael says:

    Wow… the level of ignorance and misinformation here is stunning. Do you folks actually research anything you “know” or just spout the MSNBC/Whitehouse talking points.

    “Death Panels” very accurately describes policy and practice in many HMO’s 10-15 years ago, a board of people (not necessarily doctors) that made decisions about what kind and the scope of medical care an enrolled individual would be eligible for or not eligible for. The outrage over the practice resulted in laws that make the practice illegal, no insurance company is allowed to practice this way… but, as the House and the Administration have stated and the House Bill shows, panels of bureaucrats will be established to determine the scope and types of care enrollees will be eligible for. This type of system is de riguer in any socialized program (see Great Britain, Germany, Canada).

    My issue is, if you want socialized medicine, call it that and argue on it’s merits. If you don’t know what this stuff is, don’t argue in it’s favor…educate yourself and you might find yourself in a different frame of mind.

  13. Nate says:


    I DO want socialized medicine, as per Canada, Britain, and Germany. Their healthcare systems are superior to ours. We are a bunch of idiots here in America for not following their lead sooner.

  14. Cooper says:

    A word from the other side of the pond; have your healthcare (no-body is going to respect you over here until you do) but for Pete’s sake don’t include IVF (the money we waste on that in Britain..), and don’t let the management get top heavy at the expense of the system.

  15. Jim Sadler says:

    People just are not rational as education has been crippled in the US and they no longer have the tools to reason things out. For example think of a child who develops a serious, chronic health problem well before the eighteenth birthday. There is no way he will get insurance from any source as things now stand. This can and does murder our citizens who have no free choice at all and did nothing to cause their illness.
    The right to real health care and the right to life itself are frequently one and the same thing. We must make certain that money is never a factor in the delivery of health care for each and every citizen.
    Since all industrialized nations now have public health care I would suggest that anyone in America who doesn’t like public health should get the heck out of America and move to a non industrialized nation.

  16. King says:

    I feel so much happier now I unerdtsand all this. Thanks!

  17. TaVe says:

    If you have such a problem with unhealthy choices costing other’s tax money make the cigarette tax revenue all go to paying for health care. Add a small tax to the most unhealthy foods (sodas, fast food, etc)- or at least stop putting 75% of ag subsidizes in meat/dairy and maybe increase vegetables/fruits over the current .4% of ag subsidizes.

  18. Per says:

    What Matt said!

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