GOP death panels now open in Arizona

Transplant patients dying due to slashed Medicaid budget?

During last year’s health reform debate, opponents of reform set up a straw man called “death panels” to turn people against reform. They raised the false specter of faceless government penny pinchers pulling the plug on Grandma to save a few bucks.

Their furor was over a provision for end-of-life counseling that was all about giving options to terminal patients, allowing them to make informed decisions on treatments that may extend their lives and to have quality-of-life tradeoffs. It was about dignity.

And their scare tactics worked. The provision was nixed from health reform.

Then, in recent days, the “death panels” boogeyman was resurrected, as conservatives attacked a Medicare regulation that would have provided funding for end-of-life counseling. We were saddened once again to see  the Obama Administration quickly pull the plug on that provision – obviously direct fallout from the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) sown last year.

Surely, conservatives were patting themselves on the back for saving Grandma from these federal “death panels.”

But guess what? While the GOP was fighting to keep the Feds’ hands off of Grandma, budget cuts to Arizona’s Medicaid program – cuts put in place by Republican Governor Jan Brewer and her allies – likely caused the very real deaths of at least two patients.

It’s plain to us – and to families of affected patients – that the slashed Medicaid budget in Arizona has created something terrifying: a real government death panel. Except that this death panel didn’t kill patients with counseling or empowering; it simply pulled the plug – the plug on the money, and the plug on Grandma or anyone else unfortunate enough to be in the Medicaid-funded transplant program.

So maybe death panels are real after all. But a word to folks who want to save Grandma: Don’t waste your time and energy digging into provisions of health reform legislation for imagined death panels. It’s apparently not that hard to find the real thing.