Friday, August 14, 2009

Rhetoric Over Disabilities and Health Care Reform Heats Up

Disability Scoop has a nice summary of some of the disability issues at the heart of the health care reform debate. Read "Disability Issues At Center Of Heated Health Care Debate." Not surprisingly, former Governor Sarah Palin is at the center of some of the controversy -- which started when she seemed to suggest that President Obama would like to kill her son with Down syndrome. Specifically, Palin has said the plan would force people who are either old or disabled "to stand in front of Obama’s 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide...whether they are worthy of health care."

Whatever you think of Palin -- and I know many disability advocates like her a lot -- there is no denying the hypocrisy of suggesting that the president's policies (and, by extension, the president himself) are "evil" and that the president would support kill disabled children, and then calling for restraint and civility in these discussions. On her Facebook page, she wrote:

"There are many disturbing details in the current bill that Washington is trying to rush through Congress, but we must stick to a discussion of the issues and not get sidetracked by tactics that can be accused of leading to intimidation or harassment. Such tactics diminish our nation's civil discourse which we need now more than ever because the fine print in this outrageous health care proposal must be understood clearly and not get lost in conscientious voters' passion to want to make elected officials hear what we are saying. Let's not give the proponents of nationalized health care any reason to criticize us."


I was pleased to see Michael Strautmanis, chief of staff in the White House Office of Public Liaison, step forward as the father of a child with autism. In the video below, Strautmanis says the plan would ensure that individuals won't be denied insurance coverage because of any pre-existing condition and would expand access to Medicaid. I've previously written about Strautmanis's personal connection, and I hope he'll continue his involvement in these and other issues important to people with disabilities.

Many disability groups are expressing support for the president's plan. United Cerebral Palsy has endorsed the health care reform bill, and the Arc is encouraging its members to "dispel the growing number of myths" about health care reform. In addition, the American Association of Disabled People has posted several facts from AARP to refute what it says are myths and lies. They include:
Fact 1: Medicaid not be ended, and no benefits or services will be cut.
Fact 2: No legislation currently in Congress would mandate the rationing of care. Period.
Fact 3: There is no provision of any piece of legislation that would promote euthanasia of any kind.

AARP goes on to say: "The rumors out there are flat-out lies. Right now Medicare does not cover counseling for end-of-life care. The portion of the bill in question would simply provide coverage for optional end-of-life consultations with doctors, so that the patient can be aware of all of the treatment options on the table. It is not mandatory and it has nothing to do with euthanasia."
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