Editor's Desk

Consultations to the Editor

A letter from Betsy McCaughey to the New York Times correcting its inaccurate reports of her positions on health care reform.

8.26.09

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This is a letter from Betsy McCaughey to the New York Times protesting its inaccurate reports of her positions on health care reform as stated by her publicly, at least twice in The American Spectator, and elsewhere. As the Times has thus far neglected to publish two of her letters to its correspondence column, we publish it here to set the record straight on what she has said.

Dear Editor:

Re: "Words and Meaning" (August 22) and "False Death Panel Rumor"  (August 14). Both articles misrepresent my views and, worse, fail to inform the public about why the House health bill (H.R. 3200) is coercive to seniors. I support helping the uninsured gain coverage, but a provision in the bill would use Medicare reimbursement policy to force seniors to undergo the kind of end of life consultation government deems appropriate, whether the patient and family want it or not. Last week, the Senate Finance Committee realized how wrong this would be and ripped a similar provision from their health bill draft.

The August 14 article claims that the legislation "simply aims to provide Medicare coverage for once-every five year conversations with doctors" over end of life care. Wrong. The bill prescribes what must be covered in the consultation (pages 425-30), a matter that should be left to patients and doctors. Worse still, the legislation states that the Medicare system will rate a doctor's "quality" and adjust reimbursement based on the percentage of the doctor's patients who create living wills and the percentage who adhere to them (p. 432). Paying doctors for consultations is fine. Penalizing them based on their patients' choices is wrong.

The "adhere to" part is especially dangerous. Some people say "they'd never want to be on a ventilator," but when the time comes, they choose it over death. Under the House bill, doctors would incur penalties when families don't adhere to end of life plans -- a horrible conflict of interest.

As a patient advocate, I see these difficult situations and know that government should not be involved. As you can see, my concerns are unrelated to and do not mention "death panels." Your "Words and Meaning" column incorrectly identifies me as a "proponent of the 'death panels'" interpretation. Even Jon Stewart made it clear I had not made such a claim.

Betsy McCaughey
Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths

P.S. To the public editor and staff, the August 22 article also incorrectly claims that I am a Republican.

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