The Times Explains It All on Obama-Care: Don't Worry, Conservatives

The Times tries to calm conservative fears about abortion coverage and "end of life services," but its defenses of Obama-care fail to settle the matter.

The paper's Wednesday front-page article on those angry, irritable white people protesting Obama-care at a town hall held by Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania included a fact-check box: "Frequently AskedQuestions," confidently claimingto deliver"Answers to some of the questions that have been asked at public meetings on health care."

Those"answers"turned out to be inconsistent attempts to knock down four evidently false conservative ideas about what Obama-care would entail, including abortion coverage, tax-funded care for illegal immigrants, and end-of-life care for the elderly.

The first two issuesallegedly fact-checked by the Times (delivered as Q&A's) were in fact highly debatable. The questions arein italics:

What if I don't want my health care dollars to pay for other people's abortions?

Abortion opponents say the legislation would use taxes to subsidize insurance that could cover the procedure. Under the House bill, health plans could choose to cover abortion, but they generally could not use federal money to pay for the procedure and instead would have to use money from the premiums paid by beneficiaries.

But an August 5 Associated Press article quoted Douglas Johnson, legislative director forNational Right to Life, calling that a "sham" and "a bookkeeping scheme. The plan pays for abortion, and the government subsidizes the plan."

The second Q&A cited the "death panels" made famous by Sarah Palin.

Will bureaucrats be allowed to "pull the plug" on elderly sick people, or euthanize them? Will there be "death panels" to decide who lives and dies?

No. AARP, the lobby for older Americans, says, "The rumors out there are flat-out lies." The House bill would provide Medicare coverage for optional consultations with doctors who advise patients on life-sustaining treatment and "end-of-life services," including hospice care.

But Washington Post editorial board member Charles Lane, no conservative, isn't quite so sanguine about those "optional consultations."

Though not mandatory, as some on the right have claimed, the consultations envisioned in Section 1233 aren't quite "purely voluntary," as Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) asserts. To me, "purely voluntary" means "not unless the patient requests one." Section 1233, however, lets doctors initiate the chat and gives them an incentive - money - to do so. Indeed, that's an incentive to insist. Patients may refuse without penalty, but many will bow to white-coated authority.