Smoke, Mirrors and Truth: Debating Healthcare in Fred’s World

This viral email arrived in my inbox today:

Subject: Fw: Shocking Fred Thompson Interview on Senior Health Care

You will NOT believe your ears!!!! Send this to all of your friends and relatives!!!! If you are over 65 and sick with a serious life threatening illness, your life is worth very little under this new health plan from the dems and Obama. According to Obama’s new “plan” you should eliminate yourself (commit suicide) for the good of others since you are ineligible for health care because of your advanced age. IS THIS AMERICA? WHAT AN OUTRAGE!!!!! The audacity of Obama to attempt to force this upon us!!!! Heaven help us if he succeeds!!!

This is unbelieveable, but it is being pushed through behind our backs. Listen to these interviews and learn what’s planned for the older generations, including boomers! However, they will provide counseling every 5 years so you can accept your fate or commit suicide! They’ll even tell you how to do it! Click on the link below. [1]

Okay Mr. Thompson, you’re a respected actor, talk show host and recent White House contender. I’ve just listened to your radio interview with health policy lobbyist Betsy McCaughey, and like you I’m shocked that my President and democratic Congress would actually consider state-sponsored euthanasia as a foundation for a new national healthcare plan. Shocked I say! But before I drink the proverbial koolaid, I must read it for myself.

So I download draft bill H.R. 3200 (America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009) and carefully read Pages 425 – 430 [2]. This is the section that Fred Thompson refers to in his interview.

For starters, unlike Fred & Betsy, I do not interpret this as government-sponsored euthanasia (i.e. helping people literally end their lives). Rather, I interpret this as government-sponsored resources to help people manage the end years of their lives, and to ensure their stated wishes are fulfilled by survivors, caregivers and healthcare practitioners. To me it’s another clear step toward preventive care – in this case helping people plan for their later years, before “life happens” and loved ones must react and scramble in an emergency.

My partner and I have been fortunate to work with a good financial planner and lawyer on issues of long-term care, wills, living wills, proxies and durable powers of attorney. We have thought through what we expect to happen after we’re gone or if either of us needs special care. Morbid perhaps, but we’re all heading in the same general direction. I say “fortunate” because we’ve been able to do this, with the knowledge that so many people cannot afford legal, financial or advance-care services, the result of which is often extreme emotional and financial hardship for loved ones as survivors and caregivers.

In reading H.R. 3200, Pages 425 – 430, I note some pretty clear talking points:

  • I find not a single mention of “assisted suicide”, literally or conceptually. Just a proposal for making advance-care education, counseling, services and protections available to everyone, including nine (9) references to honoring the individual’s preferences regarding “life sustaining treatment”. That’s quite the opposite of euthanasia, isn’t it?
  • In the text there are eighteen (18) references to State-specific laws and resources, with phrases like “acting within the scope of the [health] professional’s authority under State law” on Page 428. This is a deliberate acknowledgment of States rights and not a power play by the federal government as some nay-sayers have suggested.
  • “Practitioners” are clearly defined as State-licensed physicians, nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants, in short, our doctors. In this write-up, insurance and pharmaceutical companies have no role in end-of-life and managed-care decisions. In fact, insurers and pharmas are not even considered as “stakeholders” in a rather long list on Page 428. This is clearly about protecting the patient-doctor relationship, quite different from what Fred and Betsy would have us believe.
  • The advance care planning consultation that nay-sayers lambaste as some sort of “big brother” mandate actually appears to be an elective consultation that health plans will cover. Under the new plan, anyone facing difficult end-of-life issues would have resources to turn to for support, regardless of wealth or income.

Now I’ve made up my mind about H.R. 3200, Pages 425 – 430. Shame on you Fred Thompson, and shame on you Betsy McCaughey, for trying to turn this into something it isn’t for your own purposes. In the spirit of the viral email that shouted at me this morning, ARE YOU REALLY AMERICANS?? If so, can you please bury your political aspirations long enough to stand with the rest of us and do what’s right? If you do that, I’ll offer an honest debate in return.

Here it is, two legitimate topics that we can debate:

  1. In America, should health care be considered a right or a privilege? More specifically, should access to end-of-life education, counseling, preventive and protective services be considered a right or a privilege?
  2. Should our States and federal government invest anything in health-related websites, studies, pamphlets, education, counseling, protection and services; or should this be left entirely to the private sector? If the answer is a public / private partnership, then what’s the best partnership?

Notwithstanding my own opinions, in our democracy these are valid questions. Some view healthcare as a privilege we should all expect to work and pay for. Some believe healthcare is a right that we all share as Americans and living beings for that matter. Many fall somewhere in between. While I see healthcare as more of a basic right, I’m totally fine with having a respectful debate with others on these questions.

But please, can we all agree to educate ourselves before joining the fray, and stop spreading distortions that honestly serve no-one’s best interests? Fred? Betsy? We can do so much better than that.


  1. The Fred Thompson Show: Betsy McCaughey Interview
  2. America’s Affordable Health Choices Act: Complete Bill Text (HR 3200) (PDF)

One Response to “Smoke, Mirrors and Truth: Debating Healthcare in Fred’s World”

  1. Good post. I’m sick and tired of the politicization and the downright greed of some elements of the health care system. It’s is so past time for a system that allows access to health care for everyone in this country–including undocumented workers!

    We pay for it in any regard. It’s cheaper to provide health care upfront–which the knuckleheads just don’t get. And they are the ones who are worried about keeping all their “hard earned” money for themselves!

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