MAYBE FIORINA HASN’T HEARD OF RESCISSIONS…. Even now, after a year of debate, high-profile Republicans are still raising the specter of death panels, albeit with slightly more subtlety.
Yesterday, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, currently running for the Senate in California, delivered the official Republican weekly address, and repeated a variety of hackneyed GOP claims that have already been proven false, but of particular interest, the Republican candidate talked about her experience overcoming breast cancer.
“Will a bureaucrat determine that my life isn’t worth saving?” said Fiorina. “All this takes on even greater urgency in the midst of the ongoing health care debate in Washington. We wonder if we are heading down a path where the federal government will at first suggest and then mandate new standards for prevention and treatment. Do we really want government bureaucrats rather than doctors dictating how we prevent and treat something like breast cancer?”
Fiorina didn’t come right out and say “death panel,” but the implication was hardly subtle — as she sees it, “bureaucrats” may determine that cancer patients aren’t “worth saving,” and may stand in the way of treatments for sick patients.
There’s quite a bit wrong with this offensive argument, but let’s stick to the two biggest flaws. First, Fiorina doesn’t understand the proposal well enough to criticize it coherently. As Harold Pollack recently explained, “It’s been known for many years that uninsured breast cancer patients are diagnosed later, require more invasive and costly treatment, and die sooner than their insured counterparts. Lack of health insurance is a major risk factor for delayed mammography, and for delayed response to abnormal mammography that requires diagnostic resolution…. The current bills are surely imperfect. They would provide every woman the opportunity to buy affordable and decent insurance that covers diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.
What’s more, “The only part of the reform bills that could affect mammography would only make them more accessible.”
Second, if Fiorina is concerned about “bureaucrats rather than doctors dictating how we prevent and treat something like breast cancer,” she really ought to read up on the status quo and learn about a practice called “rescission.”
An investigation by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations showed that health insurers WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Assurant Inc. canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period.
It also found that policyholders with breast cancer, lymphoma and more than 1,000 other conditions were targeted for rescission and that employees were praised in performance reviews for terminating the policies of customers with expensive illnesses.
Obviously, understanding an issue is not a prerequisite to giving the Republican weekly address on that issue. But Fiorina’s spiel yesterday was ridiculous.