July 31st, 2009 | by HANK STERN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Lars Larson vs. Earl Blumenauer: The Highlights

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and radio's Lars Larson went national last night with the debate over the congressman's health care proposal that would require Medicare to reimburse physicians for discussing end-of-life choices with patients.

The back story for their appearances on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" is that Blumenauer has been angry that some Republicans and their amen chorus on talk radio have cast his proposal as making those end-of-life discussions mandatory. Here are some highlights from the Hardball transcript:


MATTHEWS: Well, what's going on here? In a moment, we're going to talk to Democratic congressman Earl Blumenauer. He's the one who put the bill-put the bill in the-put the measure in the bill.


Here's Lars Larson, by the way, radio talk show host. He's based in Portland, Oregon. Lars, let me ask you about this question. According to the president, all this is, is some money in the bill that pays for somebody who wants a consultation so they can write a living will. What's wrong with that?


LARS LARSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's baloney because here's what they're doing. They're putting the government in the position to counsel you about how you should end your life. We've already seen it happen here in Oregon. There's a woman by the name of Barbara Wagner (ph) who was told by the Medicare program-sorry-Medicaid program called the Oregon Health Plan, We won't pay for your cancer treatment, but we will pay for your so-called physician assistance in dying. In other words, your government says, We won't save your life, but we will help you end your life. That's outrageous!


And the idea that this new 1,000-page bill includes buried in it language about having the government counsel older people on how they want to end their lives-Chris, you ought to be very afraid of this. You know, we're on our way to some really serious




LARSON: What they're saying, as I understand the language-and I've read it, too, and I think you don't have to be a lawyer to read it. It says that periodically, people who are older will be counseled by their doctor, health care professionals...


MATTHEWS: At their request, right? At their request.


LARSON: Well, there's the question, is whether or not it will be at their request or whether or not the government will say, We want you to do this with all of your patients.


MATTHEWS: How would the government do that? Just tell me how...


LARSON: The government is signing the checks, Chris!


MATTHEWS: Would somebody visit you and walk in your room and say, You're wasting government money or you're wasting Medicare money, why don't you let us-give us hospice care to you or something. Is that what you're saying?


LARSON: Chris, the way I-the way I see it happening is, people who are older, who generally have more health problems, are going to walk into a doctor's office...


MATTHEWS: Sure.


LARSON: ... or a physician-you know, physician-physician assistant, and they're going to sit down. And, along with all those other questions, how are you feeling, what's your blood pressure, et cetera, they're going to do a health history, and they're going to say have you thought about the way that you're going to pass out of this world?


MATTHEWS: OK, so, your argument-Lars, I respect your position-your position is that they will affirmatively raise the topic of whether you want to waste this money. So, as you would-as they might put it, do you really want to be a burden on society? Do you really want to go through all these MRIs, when you're really on the way out? So, why don't you just take-you know, we will get you the right drugs for painkilling, and you can live in a hospice for a couple weeks.



MATTHEWS: Here is the Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer. He put the language in the bill for the health care bill that is now being considered on this.


And, by the way, what he put in there is an offer to get an explanation by a practitioner of advanced directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorneys and their uses.


Congressman, thank you.


Lars Larson says that you're going to basically have professionals confront older people and tell them they're basically being a burden, their costs are running up too high, they should consider something besides the treatment they're getting.


REP. EARL BLUMENAUER (D), OREGON: Well, Lars is either not telling the truth or he doesn't know how to read the bill.


I posted it on my Web site and I encourage anybody to look at it.


First of all, this is bipartisan legislation. My co-sponsor is a Republican doctor. And it simply provides, not a government bureaucrat, but allows you when you pick your doctor, if you're going to have this conversation, the government will pay for it.


Right now, the government will pay to hook you up, put needles in you, tubes, do all sorts of things and tests, but it won't pay for a simple consultation about what a patient can look forward to when they're in this most critical stage.


I had a friend of mine, a Republican doctor surgeon, who says he has these conversations all the time. He doesn't want to have them at the last minute, before people think about it. He thinks this is the way to go. So do I. So does the American Association of Retired People.


What Lars is talking about is absolutely bogus.



MATTHEWS: OK, Congressman, here is-here is the imagery the they're working on, the critics of this, like Lars Larson. They're saying that you're going to be confronted with this sort of Dickensian, frightening figure who is going to sit down with when you're 80 or you're 40.


BLUMENAUER: Your doctor. This is your doctor.


MATTHEWS: And that person is going to say to you, you're a burden on society. This is going to cost a lot of money, this treatment. Maybe you want to just go to a hospice and save a lot of people a lot of money.


That's what he's saying you're going to be confronted with. Are you saying you won't be confronted with that choice?


BLUMENAUER: I'm saying that this-that this gentleman and others like him have no idea how Medicare works.


You pick your Medicare doctor. It's somebody that you are comfortable with. And they are professionally obligated to work with you. It's bogus to say that, somehow, your doctor is all of a sudden going to want to do something to you that is against your interests, your health...

 
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