Irony, Thy Name is "Death Panel"

by Conor Clarke

Former Colleague Ross Douthat writes, over at his new perch at the New York Times:

The controversy over “death panels” is just the most extreme manifestation of [the debate over care for the elderly]. Obviously, the Democratic plans wouldn’t euthanize your grandmother. But they might limit the procedures that her Medicare will pay for. And conservative lawmakers are using this inconvenient truth to paint the Democrats as enemies of Grandma.

Kudos to Ross for pointing out what is indeed quite obvious: The Democratic plans will not, in fact, euthanize your grandmother. And yet I can't help but feel that there is some irony tucked away in this "inconvenient truth." It is certainly true that Democrats "might" limit the procedures that Medicare will cover. (The real issue here is whether any future limitations will lead to worse health outcomes, which is where the honest debate takes place, or at least where it should be taking place.) On the other hand, I know of at least one valuable medical service that will not be covered by Medicare in the foreseeable future, thanks to the Republicans: An end-of-life consultation. Such a consultation was an obviously and (until very recently) uncontroversially valuable expansion in Medicare coverage that the Democrats were going to include in the Senate bill. No longer. But America's senior citizens can't always get what they want.