SEBELIUS: Well, I think end-of-life discussions are very, very personal and very difficult, very difficult for family members, very difficult often for people to confront. My own mother spent 10 weeks in three different hospitals before she died, and I can tell you, it was the most agonizing, most painful, most terrible time for not only me and my siblings, but for my dad.
And what every family wants is good information and an ability to make a decision that suits their loved one the best way that the family is involved and engaged. And I think it's really horrific that some opponents of the health reform bill have used this painful, personal moment to try and scare people about what is in the bill.
Nothing could be further from the truth that there's somehow a death panel. If anything, you know, seniors should welcome the fact that doctors would have a payment provided to sit down with family members, if they choose, and -- and have a discussion.
We were desperate to do that. There were way too many specialists in and out of the room and way too little time to actually sit with someone and try to understand what was going on in my mom's case. And I -- I talk to people each and every day who are having that same difficulty.
We wanted to make sure doctors were reimbursed for that very important consultation if family members chose to make it, and instead it's been turned into this scare tactic and probably will be off the table. And that's not good news for the American public and not good news for family members.
TAPPER: Well, that's what I was going to ask, because it's not just opponents who have discomfort about talking about end-of-life care within the context of cost-cutting, because the reports are that the Senate Finance Committee is not going to include anything having to do with end-of-life care measures, and that -- that was dropped even before this brouhaha prompted by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. The House Democratic bill, of course, does have those provisions.
How important is it to the Obama administration that end-of-life care be addressed in health care reform?
SEBELIUS: Well, again, it isn't about cost-cutting. It's really about providing some comfort and opportunity for family -- to empower family members and to empower, actually, often the patient who is coping with some steps that need to be taken and to make good decisions.
What you need is somebody who can sit down with some medical advice, who knows the family, who knows the patient, and -- and have a conversation, and often that doesn't happen or it's very difficult to have happen. Doctors are too busy; people are rushing in and out of hospital rooms; you're trying to make decisions.
So this was actually to provide reimbursement for that consultation, if the family chose to have it. I'm hoping that, at the end of the day, that it will be part of the overall package, because it's one of the most important conversations a family may ever have. And certainly to try and get some good information, make some decisions, include the patient in those decisions, have a realistic discussion about what's happening and -- and what the next steps might be, I think, is -- is so beneficial for family members, who often are operating in the dark and -- and very conflicted about what to do next, what's best for their loved one, what's best for the next steps.
TAPPER: So you're hopeful, but if I'm reading you correctly, it's not a deal-breaker?