Last night’s Daily Show was hands down the best discussion of the health care reform insanity on TV, radio, or web. What interested me the most was how McCaughey revealed some of her real agenda, and how she actually brought up some almost-right points. Even more surprising, Jon Stewart misunderstood some bits that need fleshing out, so here we go.
We’ve met McCaughey before as the right wing wacko pushing the death panel idea. She does a good job hiding her real agenda for a while with Stewart, insisting on her support for public health care, and for end-of-life discussions. Let’s review her words from Rush Limbaugh’s show:
The health care reform bill “would make it mandatory — absolutely require — that every five years people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner.”
In her interview with Jon Stewart, she’s a bit more careful with her words. What she does is draw a line from reimbursement for end-of-life counseling to practice quality measures, to physician incentive payments, implying that this tenuous line will lead to “bad things”.
What Stewart missed was the whole “quality measure” thing. Medicare has a program called PQRI in which they collect data on quality of care and reimburse physicians who track these measures (many physicians, myself included, believe this really means that we will only be given full payment for tracking PQRI). For example, if I track data on whether my diabetics are offered certain tests, have their blood pressure checked, etc., I get a bonus payment (supposedly). At this point, I don’t get penalized for bad blood pressures, or rewarded for good ones. The only reward is in the tracking.
HR 3200 does add a PQRI clause to advanced directive counseling, which, it may be argued, incents physicians to have these conversations and document them. The language that McC claims is “dangerous” is this:
(b) Expansion of Physician Quality Reporting Initiative for End of Life Care-
(1) Physician’S QUALITY REPORTING INITIATIVE- Section 1848(k)(2) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395w-4(k)(2)) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraphs
‘(3) Physician’S QUALITY REPORTING INITIATIVE-
‘(A) IN GENERAL- For purposes of reporting data on quality measures for covered professional services furnished during 2011 and any subsequent year, to the extent that measures are available, the Secretary shall include quality measures on end of life care and advanced care planning that have been adopted or endorsed by a consensus-based organization, if appropriate. Such measures shall measure both the creation of and adherence to orders for life-sustaining treatment.
The section I’ve bolded is the one McC keeps bringing up. It is the key to her line of reasoning—if this is included in quality measures, then it will be included in incentive, therefore doctors will coerce patients from changing their minds about advanced directives, which might lose them credit for “adherence”.
This reasoning seems tenuous because it is. It’s ridiculous. What McC says (at time marker 16:53):
Putting pressure on doctors to require patients to go through a consultation that’s prescribed by the government, and then penalizing them if the patient or family changes their mind about their living will in a moment of crisis, that’s really wrong.
This can only be an intentional misreading of the bill and of reality itself. The PQRI system, for example, provides different codes for a measure. There is usually a code for “did it”, and “didn’t do it because it’s not appropriate” and “didn’t do it because patient doesn’t want to”. The doctor is not in any way pressured to “require” patients to do a damned thing. And if the family changes their mind and “chooses to live”, as McC puts it, there is no reason any sane, non-religious-zealot doctor would stand in the way. While the specific PQRI coding isn’t proposed in the bill, there is not reason “adherence” would stand in the way of “mind-changing”, since then you’ve created a new advanced directive with which to adhere.
I don’t believe that McCaughey is ignorant of these subtleties. I’m not surprised that Stewart didn’t understand the ins and outs of PQRI, as most doctors don’t either, but he got it right when he responded:
That would be really wrong if that was in any way what this really said.
I would add that McCaughey is using her knowledge of the topic to obfuscate, confuse, and deceive. That is what is really wrong.