RNC Chairman Steele's Op-Ed Attempts To Distract Seniors From The Truth

August 24, 2009 10:51 am ET

On August 24, 2009, RNC Chairman Michael Steele wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post regarding seniors' health care and outlining the GOP's "Seniors Health Care Bill of Rights."  However, instead of offering real solutions or finally agreeing to cooperate with Democrats, Steele's piece spreads falsehoods and misinformation with the goal of derailing efforts to help America's senior citizens.

GOP's Seniors Bill Of Rights Is Full Of Empty Rhetoric

The GOP's Seniors Health Care Bill of Rights is an outline of what is contained in Chairman Steele's op-ed.  Much like other Republican "proposals" for reform, this bill of rights is simply a vague list of ideas with no real solutions, no policy initiatives, and no chance of making a difference for any senior citizen.

Steele Spreads Misinformation About Medicare And Health Insurance Reform

RNC Chairman Steele:  "First, we need to protect Medicare and not cut it in the name of 'health-insurance reform.' As the president frequently, and correctly, points out, Medicare will go deep into the red in less than a decade. But he and congressional Democrats are planning to raid, not aid, Medicare by cutting $500 billion from the program to fund his health-care experiment." [Washington Post, 8/24/09]

President Obama: "Nobody Is Talking About Cutting Medicare Benefits."  During a health care tele-town hall with AARP members, President Obama said: "'Nobody's trying to change what does work in the system...We are trying to change what doesn't work in the system...Nobody is talking about cutting Medicare benefits. I just want to make that absolutely clear,' he said emphatically." [AARP.org, 7/29/09]

Reform Legislation Will Allow A 5% Medicare Payment Increase For Primary Care Services To Some Physicians.  According to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of HR 3200, among other changes to the Medicare payment structure, the legislation "provides for a 5% payment bonus, effective January 1, 2011, for evaluation and management services and other services associated with ensuring accessible, continuous, coordinated, and comprehensive care when provided by a physician or other practitioner who specializes in family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics or geriatrics." [KFF.org, 8/6/09]

Steele Attempts To Make Seniors Believe The Government Will Make Their Medical Decisions

RNC Chairman Steele: "Second, we need to prohibit government from getting between seniors and their doctors. The government-run health-care experiment that Obama and the Democrats propose will give seniors less power to control their own medical decisions and create government boards that would decide what treatments would or would not be funded. Republicans oppose any new government entity overruling a doctor's decision about how to treat his or her patient." [Washington Post, 8/24/09]

"No Description Of Government Force" In Treatment Prescription.  In response to fears that funding for CER allows the government to make decisions for doctors, FactCheck.org reported: "Some take that to mean the government would no longer allow certain treatments that are 'more expensive' to be prescribed. But there's no description of government force here. The sentence says 'by knowing what works best and presenting this information' to patients and physicians, the most effective procedures will be used and those that aren't as effective 'and in some cases, more expensive' won't be. That's a description of a rational, voluntary reaction to be expected from the medical community and the public to scientific knowledge of what works and what doesn't, and at what cost." [FactCheck.org, 2/20/09]

Health Insurance Reform "Would Not Require The Government To Decide How Much A Person's Life Is Worth." Regarding claims that health insurance reform would put a price on American lives, PolitiFact.com reported:  "There is no such practice in the comparative effectiveness program, nor is it part of the current health reform proposals pending in Congress. The House and Senate bills under consideration would not require the government to decide how much a person's life is worth." [PolitiFact.com, 8/4/09]

Steele Does Not Want Seniors To Have Access To The Best Medical Research

RNC Chairman Steele:  "Third, we need to outlaw any effort to ration health care based on age. Obama has promoted a program of 'comparative effectiveness research' that he claims will be used only to study competing medical treatments. But this program could actually lead to government boards rationing treatments based on age." [Washington Post, 8/24/09]

Comparative Effectiveness Research, Or CER, Simply Allows Doctors And Patients To Make Informed Choices About Treatment

CER Supplements Physicians' Knowledge To Ensure The Best Treatment Is Provided To The Patient.  David Dale, MD of the American College of Physicians testified in a House Ways and Means Committee hearing: "The availability of valid, comparative effectiveness data supplemented by the physician's clinical experience and professional knowledge, helps ensure that an effective treatment choice is made-one that meets the unique needs and preferences of the patient." [American College Of Physicians' Statement for the Record, 6/12/07]

When Patients Have Access To CER Data, "They Make Better Decisions, They're More Satisfied, And In General Their Cost Is Less."  Michelle Andrews, "On Health & Money" writer for US News & World Report, posted the following on her blog: "'We have found that if people have information about the comparative effectiveness of testing for prostate cancer, for example, or a back operation, they make better decisions, they're more satisfied, and in general their cost is less,' says Eric Larson, executive director of the Group Health Center for Health Studies." [USNews.com, 3/23/09]

"The Goal Is To Figure Out Under What Circumstances Is A Given Therapy Best For Certain Patients." The Washington Post reported: "At Kaiser, a team of pharmacists, doctors and other researchers takes a similar approach, 'scouring the globe' for data on how well medications, devices and procedures work. 'The goal is to figure out under what circumstances is a given therapy best for certain patients,' said Sharon Levine, Kaiser's associate executive medical director. The assessments are refined as data evolve and as researchers learn more about the effects of a given medication on subgroups such as women or minorities."  [Washington Post, 3/17/09]

Steele Uses Falsehoods About End-Of-Life Care To Scare American Seniors

RNC Chairman Steele: "Fourth, we need to prevent government from dictating the terms of end-of-life care. Many of the most significant costs of care come in the last six months of a patient's life, and every American household must consider how to treat their loved ones. Obama's government-run health 'reform' would pay for seniors' meetings with a doctor to discuss end-of-life care...The government should simply butt out of conversations about end-of-life care and leave them to seniors, their families and their doctors." [Washington Post, 8/24/09]

Patients Suffer When Their Doctors Are Not Aware Of Their Wishes.  According to CNN: "Discussing end-of-life care is difficult for everyone involved, but it should be done early on, doctors say.  Many aging parents and grandparents resist talking about it because of the emotional pain the issue will cause their younger relatives; and the children who will become responsible don't want to appear ungrateful or self-serving by mentioning it, [Dr. Arthur Kellerman, Emory University] said. Many doctors don't want to talk about it either, he said.  'There are a lot of my colleagues who don't bother having that conversation. They just intubate them, and ship them up to an ICU, and say 'next,'' Kellerman said." [CNN.com, 7/23/09]

Patients Are Unable To Convey Their Wishes Because Of A Lack Of Doctor Availability.  CNN reported: "Some people have signed advance directives to their children -- legal documents stating what they want to happen in terms of end-of-life decisions -- but don't talk to their children about them, Kellerman said...Beyond the advance directive, doctors need a plan for care with the patient to make sure that the person's goals are honored, Teno said. A problem behind a general lack of communication between doctors and patients is the shortage of primary care physicians in the United States, Rich said." [CNN.com, 7/23/09]

Bill Provides Funding For Seniors To Have Access To Serious Medical Information.  As reported by PolitiFact.com, "Jon Keyserling, general counsel and vice president of public policy for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which supports the provision, said the bill doesn't encourage seniors to end their lives, it just allows some important counseling for decisions that take time and consideration. 'These are very serious conversations,' he said. 'It needs to be an informative conversation from the medical side and it needs to be thought about carefully by the patient and their families.' In no way would these sessions be designed to encourage patients to end their lives, said Jim Dau, national spokeman [sic] for AARP." [PolitiFact.com, 7/16/09]

Steele Falsely Accuses Democrats Of Denying Veterans' Benefits

RNC Chairman Steele: "Finally, we need to protect our veterans by preserving Tricare and other benefit programs for military families. Democrats recently proposed raising costs for the Tricare for Life program that many veterans rely on for treatment. Republicans support our veterans and believe that America should honor our promises to them." [Washington Post, 8/24/09]

PolitiFact: "Nothing In The House Bill Would Affect Veterans' Current Coverage."  PolitiFact.com reported: "Nothing in the House bill would affect veterans' current coverage, they both said. Vets will continue to get those services from the VA. 'What the White House is saying is true,' said Bernard Edelman, deputy director for policy and government affairs for the Vietnam Veterans of America.  Edelman said that another part of the White House claim - that 'the president's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded' - also adds up. Obama's first budget plan opened the VA's doors to about that many vets previously excluded from care. So, by all accounts, the administration is correct that health care reform will not keep veterans from getting the care they currently receive." [PolitiFact.com, 8/13/09, emphasis added]

If Republicans Truly Support Veterans - Why Haven't They Done Anything To Help Them Before Now?

Veterans' Benefits Not Enough To Cover Living Expenses As Well As Prescription Medication.  The New York Times reported: "James S. Crawford, newly discharged from the hospital after his third heart attack, fanned six green slips across the counter as if showing a hand of cards. There were a pair for high blood pressure, one each for angina, cholesterol, and acid reflux, and a renal vitamin for his kidney disease. 'I need to know the prices,' he said. Ms. Suber, the pharmacist, explained what each drug was for and listed the co-payments under Mr. Crawford's Medicare plan, ranging from $8.25 to $18.49 for a one-month supply. The renal vitamin, at $21.89, was not covered. Mr. Crawford, 61, who makes do on $1,800 a month in Social Security and veterans' benefits, decided he could afford only the heart, blood pressure and acid reflux pills. 'If I can rob a bank,' he said, chuckling, 'I'll be back for the others.'" [New York Times, 6/3/09]

Has Steele Not Noticed His Own Party's Lack Of Bipartisan Cooperation?

RNC Chairman Steele: "Barack Obama campaigned on "post-partisanship." As president, however, Obama has shown that he is beholden to his party's left-wing ideologues. It's not too late for him to honor his pledges for bipartisan health-care reform. Reversing course and joining Republicans in support of health care for our nation's senior citizens is a good place to start. Doing so will help him restart the reform process to give Americans access to low-cost, high-quality health care."  [Washington Post, 8/24/09]

Chairman Steele Should Direct His Advice To His Own Party, As The GOP Has Clearly Resisted Bipartisan Efforts To Reform Health Care

Rather Than Proposing Solutions, Rep. Blunt Sought To Focus On Attacking Democrats' "Really Bad Piece Of Work."  As reported by The Hill, Rep. Roy Blunt said: "Our bill is never going to get to the floor, so why confuse the focus? We clearly have principles; we could have language, but why start diverting attention from this really bad piece of work they've got to whatever we're offering right now?" [The Hill, 7/22/09]

Sen. Grassley: "I Take Pride With Being An Obstructionist." As reported by Politico, "Grassley had words for both parties. 'I take pride with being an obstructionist,' he said, if that means scuttling a public option that could lead to a single-payer system." [Politico, 7/6/09]