Here’s Johnny!: Isakson Pushes Back on “Death Panels” – But Also on House Democrats’ Bill

By Lindsey Ellerson

Aug 11, 2009 6:05pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports: During a town hall meeting in New Hampshire Tuesday, President Obama made sure to point out one Republican proponent of end of life counseling to argue there are no “death panels” in health care reform bills in the House and the Senate.
 
“The irony is that actually one of the chief sponsors of this bill originally was a Republican — then House member, now senator, named Johnny Isakson from Georgia — who very sensibly thought this is something that would expand people’s options,” said the president in Portsmouth, N.H. Tuesday. “And somehow it’s gotten spun into this idea of “death panels.”  I am not in favor of that.  So just I want to — (applause.)  I want to clear the air here.”
 
But, apparently Obama did not invoke Isakson with the senator’s blessing, and now there is some pushback today from the Georgia Republican who voted against the Senate health reform bill in committee, but did add an end-of-life consultation amendment to it.
 
“This is what happens when the President and members of Congress don’t read the bills,” says Isakson in a paper statement. “The White House and others are merely attempting to deflect attention from the intense negativity caused by their unpopular policies.  I never consulted with the White House in this process and had no role whatsoever in the House Democrats’ bill.  I categorically oppose the House bill and find it incredulous that the White House and others would use my amendment as a scapegoat for their misguided policies,” Isakson continued.  “My Senate amendment simply puts health care choices back in the hands of the individual and allows them to consider if they so choose a living will or durable power of attorney. The House provision is merely another ill-advised attempt at more government mandates, more government intrusion, and more government involvement in what should be an individual choice.”
 
To be fair, however, you can understand their confusion at the White House.  In a conversation he had with Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein on end-of-life issues, Isakson sounds like he’s for Medicare patients discussing these things with their doctors. Isakson also sponsored a bill in 2007, that would “amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for coverage of an end-of-life planning consultation as part of an initial preventive physical examination under the Medicare program.” That’s very similar to what the House bill would do, although with much less specificity. 
 
In the written statement, Isakson’s office says the House version would “incentivize doctors by offering them money to conduct ‘end-of-life counseling’ with Medicare patients every five years.” And it disagrees with the mandated list of topics doctors providing the counseling must provide to receive the benefit.  Scroll way down to Section 1233 to read the House version’s difficult to understand legislative language HERE.
 
Isakson’s amendment to the Senate bill, they say, is very different because, “anyone who participates in the long-term care benefit provided in the bill – if they so choose – may use that benefit to obtain assistance in formulating their own living will and durable power of attorney. ”
 
And it’s true that his amendment is two pages whereas the section in the House bill is ten. But the bill Isakson offered has more similarities with the House Democrats’ bill than it has differences.

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