It’s End Times for Death Panels in Teak, Mohagany, or Rosewood

Oh spit!

And so,

A Senate panel has decided to scrap the part of its healthcare bill that in recent days has given rise to fears of government "death panels," with one lawmaker suggesting the proposal was just too confusing.

The Senate Finance Committee is taking the idea of advance care planning consultations with doctors off the table as it works to craft its version of healthcare legislation, a Democratic committee aide said Thursday.

Speculation vs. Reality

Thus, lending credence to the imbecilities of roundly discredited morans on the extreme right, led by

… former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin [who] speculated that Obama and other Democrats wanted to set up "death panels" to decide who gets medical services and who does not.

In reality, the provision was designed to allow Medicare to pay doctors who counsel patients about planning for end-of-life decisions. The consultations would be voluntary and would provide information about living wills, healthcare proxies, pain medication and hospice.

Fear Not, Death Lives

A well-formed House version of the Senate Finance Committee verbiage on end of life counseling remains unblemished by demagogues,

A similar provision remains in legislation that was passed by three House committees last month, and the idea could remain on the table when lawmakers move toward agreement on a final bill.

Legislation passed by the Senate’s health committee does not include the consultation measure.

The Nexus of Health Care Doom

Why isn’t the Senate HELP committee the focal point of health care reform? Answer: They are not the Senate Finance Committee:

Health care reform is a major piece of this year’s legislative program. In total, five committees will have held hearings on the issue and marked up a bill to reform the health care system in the United States. One of those committees stands out as the key arbiter on the many sticking points of the proposed legislation, the Senate Finance Committee.

The Finance Committee contains a high volume of lawmakers with close ties to the health and insurance industries through both campaign contributions and personal relationships. The visualizations below highlight these influences by mapping former staffers of Finance Committee members who have since become lobbyists for health and insurance interests and showing the number of contributions given to the committee members from these industries.


The map shows only ten of the thirteen committee Democrats, as does not report any staffers turned health care lobbyists for Sens. Jay Rockefeller, Jeff Bingaman or Bill Nelson. These ten Democrats are connected to a total of 20 former staffers turned health care lobbyists. Sen. Baucus leads all of the committee Democrats with five health care lobbyist connections and Sen. Chuck Schumer and Tom Carper both have three connections.

These 20 staffers represent approximately 91 different organizations, often overlapping in the clients they handle. The overlap usually occurs when the health care lobbyists are employed at the same firm. This can be seen clearly with David Castagnetti, Sen. Baucus’ former chief of staff, and Kelly Bingel, Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s former chief of staff. Both Castagnetti and Bingel work for Mehlmen Vogel Castagnetti Inc. and handle nearly all the same clients.


Both Sens. Charles Grassley and Orrin Hatch have four connections to former staffers. Both senators are in powerful positions on the committee, especially as it pertains to health care legislation. Grassley is the current ranking member on the full committee and Hatch is the ranking member on the Health subcommittee. Both are also top recipients of money from the health and insurance industries. Over his career, Grassley received $1,876,479 from the health industry and $858,224 from the insurance industry. Hatch, meanwhile, pulled in $2,311,744 from the health industry and $659,307 from the insurance industry over his career.

In the item about the concession made by the powerful committee in response to a Palin twitter quoted Grassley, thusly,

Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the committee, said the panel dropped the idea because it could be "misinterpreted or implemented incorrectly."

Apparently, the committee was expecting Palin to be appointed the first Death Panel czarina.

Previous post

Trust Me says Scrapple and Part 2 Admiral Joe

Next post

Howard Dean and Mike Lux on Health Care At Netroots Nation