Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 14, 2009 3:03PM

"Rationed Care" is the new "Death Panels"

Rate: 14 Flag

Fox News The Wall Street Journal has yet another stellar opinion piece in today’s paper that reminds us, once again, who owns it. In “Obama's Senior Moment”, the editorial staff at the WSJ warn seniors that maybe President Obama doesn’t want to kill them with death panels, but it does want to kill them by rationing care.

I have a profound problem with this. No, let me rephrase that, I have several problems with this, but one of them is profound. I am a card carrying member of the Journalism Fan Club*. I believe in its place as the fourth, and most important, estate. Think of everything said about the importance of the press throughout history and know that I would make t-shirts with those quotes on them if I wore t-shirts with quotes on them. I believe the hallmark of a successful democracy is a free press, or as Thomas Jefferson once said, "Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe."

Because I believe in the importance of a free press to our republic, I expect the press to be honest. I'm not saying that news agencies shouldn't be opinionated, but they must be honest. It is their obligation to tell the truth. Besides, if you can't make your point without lying, you should probably just shut the hell up. 

As such, I would like to issue some abuse towards the Wall Street Journal's editorial board. 

Dear Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, 

Suck it. 

Love, SK

All kidding aside, it sickens me that the WSJ is following the lead of NewsCorp's pride and joy, Fox News. I understand this is an editorial piece, but "editorial" doesn't mean, "feel free to lie". 

A brief tour of any reputable news outlet makes it apparent that, in fact, the health care initiatives being considered by Congress will not be rationing care. Scaring old people is a special kind of shitty. Hopefully, all of those lovely older folks are keeping up on their AARP reading

"Myth: Health care reform means rationed care.

Fact: None of the health reform proposals being considered would stand between individuals and their doctors or prevent any American from choosing the best possible care.

Fact: Health care reform will NOT give the government the power to make life or death decisions for anyone regardless of their age. Those decisions will be made by an individual, their doctor and their family.

Fact: Health care reform will help ensure doctors are paid fairly so they will continue to treat Medicare patients.

Bottom Line: Health reform isn't about rationing; it's about giving people the peace of mind of knowing that they will be able to keep their doctors and that they will always have a choice of affordable health plans."


On a side note, AARP is awesome. I'm not saying that because they are helping me tell the WSJ to suck it, but because they have literally saved my grandmother's life with their amazing advice and recommendations for seniors. 

The WSJ tries to make its case not using facts, but with this lovely piece of reasoning, "Far from being a scare tactic, this is a logical conclusion based on experience and common-sense." Oh, okay. Don't worry about the facts, just scare the pants off of my mom because of what you perceive as "common sense".

It's not common sense. It's a conclusion someone that the WSJ came up to further smear health care reform. A very good example of common sense, on the other hand, is derived from actual, you know, facts: 

"Health care is being rationed right now and this is an ugly truth that almost everyone ignores.  If you do not believe me you should consult some of the forty-seven million Americans without insurance, or the millions denied treatment by their health insurance company, or the hundreds of thousands denied treatment by Medicare or Medicaid." (link)

The WSJ piece then goes on to say that "okay, we admit private insurance companies ration care, but it's far worse when the government does it." Really? Why? The WSJ article mentions how governments with universal programs limit care based on age and risk tables. Someone who is 85, is going to have a hard time getting a heart transplant. This is true. Private insurance, on the other hand, likes to deny treatment to moms with young children and seven-year-olds.

My very favorite part of the WSJ piece, however, is when it contradicts itself in two consecutive sentences: 

"But Mrs. Palin has also exposed a basic truth. A substantial portion of Medicare spending is incurred in the last six months of life."

"From the point of view of politicians with a limited budget, is it worth spending a lot on, say, a patient with late-stage cancer where the odds of remission are long?"

Okay, WSJ, which way would you like to have it? Is it bad to spend so much money on the last six months of life or is it bad to ration care to old people? You can't have it both ways... or actually, you seem to think you can. 

This is apparently the new version of "death panels". Maybe the government won't kill you, but it will ration your care! The government has done a pretty damned good job for more than four decades of making sure seniors have access to affordable health care. Trying to scare the elderly into voting against a plan that would be not only in their best interest, but in the best interest of their children and grandchildren is nothing short of immoral. Shame on the WSJ and their shoddy "journalism". 


* - The Journalism Fan Club doesn't really exist, but if it did, I would proudly carry its card. 

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Weasels indeed. The WSJ editorial board has long been a joke. Literate people know that health care is already rationed by price, availability and exclusion.
Amen! God, I hate the WSJ. I say bring on socialized health care!!

Bottomline: Nobody should be allowed to own more than one media outlet in a single area. This was once law and, stupidly, replealed, so now we're stuck with the likes of Murdoch. Congress needs to reinstate it, and make the likes of Mr. M. sell off some of his media holdings.

Great piece. Rated.

"The discoveries of healing science must be the inheritance of all. That is clear. Disease must be attacked, whether it occurs in the poorest or the richest man or woman simply on the ground that it is the enemy; and it must be attacked just in the same way as the fire brigade will give its full assistance to the humblest cottage as readily as to the most important mansion. Our policy is to create a national health service in order to ensure that everybody in the country, irrespective of means, age, sex, or occupation, shall have equal opportunities to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available."

- Prime Minister Winston Churchill, March 1944, arguing for the establishment of a British National Health Service.
Re: the WSJ sentence:

"From the point of view of politicians with a limited budget, is it worth spending a lot on, say, a patient with late-stage cancer where the odds of remission are long?"

Actually I read this sentence as an attempt to reinforce the idea that politicians will be making decisions about individual patient care, which is ridiculous. The whole thing is staggeringly and unspeakably absurd, like living in a Kafka short story. Apparently the Americans who have swallowed the lies do not realize that by protesting reform they are in effect begging their corporate overlords in the insurance industry to continue to "manage" them right into bankruptcy, a painful life, and/or an early grave - as if the insurance industry were somehow a paragon of trustworthy, compassionate, altruistic magnanimity!
I agree with the press being honest, but lets face it, what about CNN and MSNBC. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Now who is really being biased. We never like to look in the mirror to see how we are just like the supposed enemy we are fighting. Hmm, the truth is, no one knows the truth anymore. It is all contrived and false regardless therefore rationed care versus no rationed care are all potentials under the sun in this world gone to hell. Never understand why people fall for and simply accept such things has Democrat or Republican or any other party for that matter. If you think any of these parties have your interest, well, I am amazed. Self preservation is the name of their game, not healthcare, not cleaning the environment, not any of it.
What did you expect. The Wall Street Journal is the voice of
big business including the insurance industry, the drug companies,
and the current managed care providers. They will do what they can to protect the comfort they have in the status quo. They already ration health care so as to keep thier profit levels high.
They do not want the government- in a round about way, read the public or the end user- have this power.
On a personal side, I believe we all should have our own medical- no health- sayings accounts which we could spend on the kind of health care we wish. Insurance and Medicare covers nothing that I seek in and use in health care anyway. Paternalism sucks- i.e. idea that I am too stupid to make my own decisons, so they must be made for me, by someone whos is........
Call me crazy,but I don't want 6 months of emergency critical care the end of my life. I must stop , or I'll get into more than I intended here. WJS is a big business publication, not one has every accused it of having a liberal direction or concern with the real public interest.
We have the best health care money can buy. It amazes me that the people who protest the most have the most to lose in the current system.
We will ration health care, and every other product and service, under any conceivable set of incentives, because our desires are infinite and our ability to satisfy them are not. Amazing the "conservatives" need this explained to them.

Of course, the style "conservative" doesn't seem to denote much of anything anymore, other than some elderly people demanding the uninterrupted flow of UNLIMITED taxpayer-funded medical interventions via our nation's socialized healthcare system for the elderly, all the while railing about the evils of socialized medicine, and without even asking whether all this relentless medicating is doing them any net good.
@Fred, I couldn't have said iy better. This whole Health Care thing is about power and control. It will just be another program that can be used every election cycle to say "(Insert favorite party) want to take away your health care.

Politicians don't sit home at night wondering about your health. they sit at home wonder how they can get re-elected.
Congrats, SK! I agree that journalists should write the truth. Congrats to many of the respondents as well, especially, John Blumenthal's comment on ownership and to Bobby G for reminding us that the conservative Winston Churchill supported universal health care. One of the problems with the press in America is that it is fomenting fear of socialism and too many are ignorant of what socialism means.
That article is one good reason, I rarely read the WSJ! I have never agreed with any of their editorials. Heck, the name says enough! It's all about Wall Street, and Big Business. Since when, did Big Business give a damn about anything but money?

Now as to AARP, I only wish they could get the message through, to people here in Florida. They held a meeting last week at a Lutheran Church in Lakeland. They got booed and ran from the building by an angry mob! These rednecks, are not just dumb. They are dumb and dangerous!
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel hasn't told OMB anything about Advance Care that Newt Gingrich hasn't proposed himself.


I am sickened by anything that minimizes the importance of end of life care...and anything said by Sarah Palin. Thanks for adding to the discourse.

poorsinner101 and fredpirone:

No, I didn't include those media outlets. The piece was specifically about an OpEd in the WSJ, not about the state of the media today. That is a post for another day.

Nonetheless, I'll address your replies. If you want to try and make a case about bias in regards to content, you might have an argument, because than there isn't a media outlet in the world that isn't guilty of that type of bias. If you are, however, trying to say that CNN, MSNBC, ABC, etc. are guilty of lying to promote their bias, than, I'm sorry, but you don't have a leg to stand on.

I am not sure if you read this particular sentence in my post, but I'll post it again, just in case:

"I'm not saying that news agencies shouldn't be opinionated, but they must be honest"

Just seeing the link to Newsbusters.org made me throw up a little in my mouth. Newsbusters proudly boasts that its staff takes on leadership and speaking roles at Tea Party events. Not only is Newsbusters biased, but just like Fox News, it's run by a bunch of weasels. Let's take a look at this snippet from an article this past January (link at bottom):

"One wonders why journalists are allowing this corralling of the press? Would they have allowed George W. Bush to pre-pick journalists like that?"

Newsbusters is obviously aware that Bush cherry picked his audiences from the days as the governor of Texas, all the way through his entire presidency. He wouldn't let the press see bodies coming back from Iraq. The entire presidency was one big media black out. Newsbusters knows that perfectly well, and yet they try to make a claim like this.

I know the right likes to rant about the "liberal" press, but it has always been a ridiculous charge. Most of the coverage of the health care issue, for instance, has focused on the loud-mouthed bullies at the town halls. Very little has focused on proponents of the initiative or those suffering under the greed of large insurance companies.

The big media outlets don't deal in wholesale lies like Fox News and the editorial crew over at the WSJ. It's one thing to have bias, but it's another thing to outright lie. Fox News ran with the story of the death panels, even though they knew it was a complete fabrication. I have a warm place in my heart for the headlines after Dick Cheney's hunting accident. For days, Fox News used the term "alleged", even though it was a known fact that Cheney had shot some dude in the face.

So, no. I didn't include CNN or MSNBC or any other media outlet. Yes, MSNBC has Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, but it also has Joe Scarborough. CNN's Lou Dobbs is the new poster boy for the ludicrous "birthers" movement. Pundits are pundits and outside of those shows, both networks balance both sides.

Kitty, RE: Newsbusters...have at 'em! Are you from Jersey?
Sadly, this seems more nostalgic than new. It feels more like a throwback to the days of the old media barons like Hearst & Pulitzer ... only now the can dominate more media outlets than mere newspapers.
I recently watched a David Susskind interview with Harry Truman on Hulu. It was jarring how much of this nearly 50 year old interview was so relevant to our present day. Truman had strong warnings about media dominance by a few oligarchs and the effects they can have on setting the national agenda.
I'm disappointed, but not surprised at the journal doing the bidding of their corporate masters. What dismays me most, is that media consumers have not become more sophisticated in their resistance to media bias.
This old folk hopes the bill includes a provision for voluntary euthanasia in the event Sarah Palin is ever elected president.

"From the point of view of politicians with a limited budget, is it worth spending a lot on, say, a patient with late-stage cancer where the odds of remission are long?"

In August of 2000 I had a 2 inch diameter tumor in my lung. A second opinion, not paid for by my insurance told me that the treatment that I had received was "inocuous" and should be more "agressive". However, my prognosis was 10-20% chance of survival after a year.

I changed doctors at my own cost because my insurance would not pay out of their system and the agressive chemo being planned was too exensive, and the chances were not good.

It is now August 2009 and I am still alive and feeling just fine and go to the doctors for an occasional chck-up; but I am still feeling the financial effects of the cost treatment and doctors that my insurance company dened payment for and my wife's insurance only partly paid.

I believe that the insurance companies don't want you to survive so they don't have to pay for prolonged treatment
Great post and discussion.

James W---you were so smart to get a second opinion and go to the doctors that knew how to treat you. I have met many people who just give up--letting the insurance companies decide whether they will live or die. They are the true death panels!
As to the WSJ, I have seen no changes since Rupert Murdoch took over the financial rag. The front section has changed with more world news, (which is good), and more deliberate slanting towards the right wing agenda on domestic issues (which is bad). Before there was a concentration on increased profits and greater market share.

rated for an excellent analysis
Steve Klingaman: I've lived in New Jersey since 1996, but I grew up in Miami, FL. Love Jersey!

Punterjohn: I totally agree with you, but there is one difference. Back in Truman's time, companies were limited in how many media products they could own. Now, it's almost limitless. We have small handful of huge companies owning most of the world's media (not just in the US), from newspapers to radio stations to television networks and cable companies and internet service providers. It's really quite disturbing.

James W. - Thank goodness you had the assets to get the treatment. You're right. Insurance companies consider patients a costly liability when they suffer a catastrophic illness. That's what happened with my father. It was definitely better for his insurance company for him to no longer be a drain on their bottom line, so they made sure he wasn't. Sadly, we didn't have the assets to stop them. I'm glad to see they didn't do the same thing to you. Congratulations on your recovery!

tegrat - LOL. That's a death panel I would get behind. ;)
Fred Pirrone, hrndwmmn, and all the other Gingrich/Palin-sucking Righttard Traitors against Health Care Reform - I HAVE "managed care" already through thanks to Big Insurance, specifically Blue Cross/Excellus. They told my vascular surgeon that my Venous Closure surgery was "Not Medically Necessary" - after two years of my in-Excellus's-pocket Primary Care Physician misdiagnosing my condition as "unspecified eczema" and treating it solely with Steroid cream, which resulted in my bleeding profusely, TWICE, in the parking lots of BJ's Big Box Store and Sears because my ankle veins had rotted through!

So, in the words of Lily Allen - "Fuck You, Fuck You Very Very Much!" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ITZBBV8Syg )
Perhaps socialized medicine IS here. Don't we educate our doctors in tax supported schools? And loan them education funds through tax supported student loans?
The really sad part of this debate is the Dems, Obama in particular, can't throw back the truth: "death panels" have been in existence at the health insurance companies as long as they have been issuing health policy coverage. The insurance companies review what they will cover on an individual per patient, per instance basis.

Obama and the Dems are inarticulate when all the lurid facts are known and on their side. Dems lack of a will to fight is infuriating and demoralizing to their base. Disgusting actually.
Sakai Tochari: "Obama and the Dems are inarticulate when all the lurid facts are known and on their side. Dems lack of a will to fight is infuriating and demoralizing to their base. Disgusting actually."

I can't decide with whom I am more frustrated, the groups funded with insurance lobbying money encouraging people to disrupt town hall meetings so that the truth can't be heard, or the Democrats who continuously allow the right to shape the debate. It's a hard choice because both exasperating.

poorsinner101: Just because you say it, doesn't make it true. BTW, the swallow comment? Are you 14? *eye roll*
Why is it far worse when government rations care? If you're on a single payer system (the ultimate goal and inevitable result of a government 'option'), this is sort of self-explanatory, isn't it?

The government 'option' will mandate minimum levels of coverage and non-coverage for everything, and these will eventually be forced on all private plans. Minimum standards almost always end up being maximum standards as well, meaning no plans will cover things not covered in the govt. 'option' because then they couldn't compete against a plan that operates at a loss like medicare and medicaid.

We'll end up with all private plans looking exactly like the government 'option', except they will cost slightly more because they're forced to make an evil profit. All the private plans will go under, leaving single payer by default. Under single payer, decisions about what is and isn't covered will be politically driven, and government bureaucracy will exacerbate the faults of a monopoly.

If Medicare and Medicaid operated at a significantly higher efficiency than private plans, there might be a compelling argument for a government 'option'. But they don't, so there isn't.
The WSJ and Limbaugh and Beck, et al, are awful but, let's face it - the battle is over. All of our high hopes that Obama has the courage of his convictions seem to be dashed....he's not a fighter...he's an orator and he's been twisted into a helpless pretzel by his politically savvy House and Senate Democratic colleagues. Health care is presently a problem and not a crisis. Until IBM or WalMart or GE tell their employees they can no longer provide health care coverage to them it won't be a crisis and won't get solved.