"'It let's you make your own choice,' says Barbara Aplin, shouldering an oxygen tank on her way to the lunch line here at the senior Community Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She is speaking not of her meal options in 2011 but of so-called 'death panels,' the more colloquial name for the new Medicare rule now paying doctors to counsel this seventy-six-year-old ('and three-quarters!') and her fellow senior citizens about end-of-life care. If you listen to the new fear merchants from the right, the rule pushes seniors to opt out of medical treatment that might prolong their lives. But take an afternoon to listen to the actual grandmas, and you get a much different kind of scare. If her children don't listen to an end-of-life plan, Aplin says, 'I'll come back to haunt them.'"
What's getting Fox News's granny panties in a twist comes down to a new billing code — "voluntary" instead of "v66.7" — that the Obama administration added back in to Medicare regulation on New Year's Day after dropping it from the rather contentious Section 1233 of the health-care bill. But we couldn't find a single elderly American on Medicare who was against the provision.
"Death panels," now that they're going down in a slightly different way, don't strike those a bit closer to actual death as particularly deadly — and certainly not as anything new.
Here's something Fox News won't tell you: While the controversial billing code for an end-of-life conversation did not exist on Medicare forms until January 1, many doctors had the chat anyway — uncompensated. One primary-care physician told us that others found a way to bill "for the disease, and then add a v66.7 'encounter for palliative care.' And then I bill by time and code them usually a 99215, as it is usually forty-plus minutes."See also: Anatomy of the Right Wing's Death-Panel Meme
With the new health-care regulation, she says she'll simply bill for "voluntary advance care planning." A different check box, as it were.