Cutting the Health Care Crap: Betsy McCaughey

There is a name you
will keep hearing throughout the health insurance reform debate; Betsy
McCaughey (It's pronounced "McCoy," for those who only hear the name
and wonder who's lying to them). You will hear from her and see her ad nauseum,
because the right wing, especially the whacks at Fox News, love parading her
before you like their prized bull at the county fair. And make no mistake, what
you will hear is prized right wing bull.


The reason the far
right fart machine likes McCaughey is because she's relatively nice to look at, she's
actually quite intelligent, and she has a veneer of credibility, having served
one term as Lieutenant Governor of New York. She has a significant
background as a scholar. Unfortunately, being a scholar doesn't mean she's
incapable of making stuff up. Make no mistake; when it comes to her opinions on
health care policy, she's one hundred and ten percent behind the private health
insurance companies, and most of what she says can't pass a sniff test. But why
wouldn't she lie? She's paid to, as one of their lobbyists. But don't let her
know you know this; she likes to pretend she's somehow looking out for
"the people," and she tends to deny it. Yet, she never sues anyone
who calls her out on it. I know, because I've done this before. 


Her latest lie is a
whopper, and I know you've heard it, because the right wing fart machine has
taken it and run with it widely enough that seniors are becoming scared. You
see, according to McCaughey and her trained parrots, Congress intends to kill
seniors, en masse, when it passes its health insurance reform bill. Yes, you
heard it; they're going to cut off their Medicare and kill anyone who objects.


There's a reason we
call it a "fart machine," folks.


This is from former
Senator Fred Thompson's radio crapfest on July 16:


one of the most shocking things I found in this bill, and there were many, is
on Page 425, where the Congress would make it mandatory — absolutely require
— that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session
that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition, how
to decline being hydrated, how to go in to hospice care. And by the way, the
bill expressly says that if you get sick somewhere in that five-year period —
if you get a cancer diagnosis, for example — you have to go through that
session again. All to do what's in society's best interest or your family's
best interest and cut your life short. These are such sacred issues of life and
death. Government should have nothing to do with this.


Apparently, Thompson
doesn't have very many listeners, because it took awhile for the right wing
fart machine to gear up and spread this nonsense. So, she was good enough to
repeat much the same lie in a Wall Street Journal editorial on July 25:


the House bill being pushed by the president reduces access to such cures and
specialists, it ensures that seniors are counseled on end-of-life options,
including refusing nutrition where state law allows it (pp. 425-446). In
Oregon, some cancer patients are being denied care by the state that could
extend their lives and instead are afforded the benefit of physician-assisted
suicide instead.


This time, the right
wing took it and ran with it. Now, if you've read my previous piece on this,
you know I've dealt with this before. This is a right wing lie, and nothing
more. They are counting on you not reading what's actually in the bill. But
there are people like me who will actually read the bill for you, and cut the
crap. As always, I encourage everyone to read
through the bill
and make up their own minds every time the right wing
tries to scare the shit out of someone.


The section McCaughey
is twisting is Sec. 1233. Here is what it actually says:


Care Planning Consultation

Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the term ‘advance care planning
consultation’ means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner
described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning, if, subject to
paragraph (3), the individual involved has not had such a consultation within
the last 5 years. Such consultation shall include the following:

An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key
questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to.

An explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living
wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses.

An explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health
care proxy.

The provision by the practitioner of a list of national and State-specific
resources to assist consumers and their families with advance care planning,
including the national toll-free hotline, the advance care planning
clearinghouses, and State legal service organizations (including those funded
18 through the Older Americans Act of 1965).

An explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services and
supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for
such services and supports that are available under this title.


Now, look closely at
the above. What the bill does is allow anyone — not just seniors, but anyone
— to engage with experts to create a plan for the end of their life, or a plan
to deal with a chronic illness, or any of a number of serious health issues.
But there is nothing to make such a meeting mandatory; in fact, it's just
the opposite. The five year time frame McCaughey and others have used to scare
seniors is actually a LIMIT. You are limited to one covered Advanced Care
Planning consultation every five years. It's not mandatory, and it's sure as
hell not "absolutely required."


And the reference to
Medicare is especially heinous, because it's an absolute attempt to scare the
shit out of the elderly. This bill is intended to incorporate Medicare into the new public
insurance system, which only makes sense. The reality is, not only will it NOT cut back on Medicare, but it will give seniors a much cheaper alternative to the expensive "Part B" insurance they now have to carry. This isn't actually a burden forced
upon Medicare recipients; it's a benefit. They will actually get to speak to
lawyers and doctors who can advise them of all of the possibilities regarding
their medical situation.


If you don't believe
me, then listen to what Rep. Earl Blumenauer says about this insanity. Who the
hell is Rep. Blumenauer? He just the guy who wrote the provision; he should know what it means. And there is nothing about Rep. Blumenauer that would remind one of Snidely Whiplash or Darth Vader. After this stupid statement was made, and parroted throughout the right wing
media fart machine, Blumenauer published
a Fact Sheet
. Here's what he said about the right wing's "myths"
(Congresspersons are way too polite to refer to them as "bullshit):


Patients will be forced to have this consultation once every five years.


Advance planning consultations are not mandatory; this benefit is completely

The provision merely provides coverage under Medicare to have a conversation

every five years if – and only if – a patient wants to make his or her wishes
known to a doctor. If desired, patients may have consultations more frequently
if they are chronically ill or if their health status changes.


Patients will be forced to sign an advance care directive (or living will).


There is no mandate in the bill to complete an advance care directive or living
will. If a patient chooses to complete an advance directive or order for life
sustaining treatment, these documents will help articulate a full range of
treatment preferences, from full and aggressive treatment to limited, comfort
care only. Patients that choose to have these documents and can customize them
so that their wishes are appropriately reflected.


Patients will have to see a health care professional chosen by the government.


There are no government-chosen professionals involved. The legislation simply

Medicare to pay for a conversation between patient and their doctors if
patients wish to talk with their doctor about end of life care preferences.


In other words, every
single right wing asshole who has been perpetuating this load of crap is simply
parroting Betsy McCaughey, who started it.


McCaughey is a truly
reprehensible human being, in that she has always fought against universal
health care, using lies and deception. I could understand not being in favor of universal health care, if one had an honest argument against it. But when someone with McCaughey's intelligence is forced to lie, it reveals a moral bankruptcy that is stunning.

Even before her stint as Republican
Lieutenant Governor in New York, she was quite instrumental in killing the
Clinton plan in 1994, when she wrote an article in The New Republic entitled
"No Exit." That article was quite effective in a pre-Internet world because it made
a convincing argument against a concept that didn't actually exist. According
to the article, Clinton's plan would actually — and I'm not making this up —
forbid individuals from paying for their own health care, thus leaving "No
Exit" from the system. Hence the title. Never mind that the first
paragraph of the Clinton-produced bill included the following language:


Nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting the
following: (1) An individual from purchasing any health care services.


She supposedly wrote
the article from the perspective of an impartial observer just reading through
the massive Clinton proposal and looking for the "hidden proposals,"
even though she was anything but, having been a shill for the health insurance
lobby. Her bullshit was picked apart by almost everyone, but because it was the
pre-Internet Age, it took a while to take her down. In fact, the best
pieces came out well after the Clinton plan was dead and buried. It was so bad,
The New Republic itself published
the best refutation
of the bullshit in her article, and they later printed
an apology, even after the article won the National Magazine Award for
"Excellence in Public Interest."


McCaughey has been
really busy this year, as well. If you'll recall, earlier this year she tried
to bullshit her way into the media "debate" over the digitization of
medical records; remember that? She started with a
commentary on
in which she whined and lied about a provision
in the stimulus plan that would put all medical records into a single national
database; an absolute must for the system that should have been undertaken years ago. Here's what she said:


the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health
Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your
doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate
and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s
decisions (442, 446). 


This was, of course, a
complete lie. But it was picked up by the right wing fart machine and parroted
by the usual idiots; Hannity, Limbaugh, and everyone at Fox News. Within a week
or so, she was completely debunked, but not before the right wing fart machine
scared the living crap out of a lot of people. She was finally taken down by CNN's Dr. Elizabeth Cohen (Thanks to Think Progress for this…)

Now, we asked Betsy McCaughey, because she’s been through this bill
page by page, “point us to the language that says that this bill will
dictate what your doctor does,” and she showed us language
that didn’t actually, specifically say that. It didn’t say that the
government will have the right to dictate what your doctor does.

But she says it’s vague enough that the government would be able to do
that. And, of course, we ran this by the folks who wrote the bill. They
said that any accusations that this bill will allow the government to
dictate anything to your doctor, they say those accusations are “wildly
inaccurate and preposterous.”


This is what she does,
folks. She is a proven liar, to the extent that even her own magazine has had
to apologize for her in the past.

Therefore, when you hear the name "Betsy McCaughey (sounds like McCoy)" discussing health insurance, run the other way, and assume it's a load of crap. You're not likely to be wrong.

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