Wednesday, October 3, 2012

From "Reviewing Committees" to "Death Panels": Media Disdain for the 40% of Americans Who Are Getting It Right?

Two thirds' way through a delicious sauv blanc with some family, the Disease Management Care Blog happily announced that the spouse had agreed to purchasing an even larger flat screen television that included internet functionality.  When the spouse naturally protested, a carefully conducted forensic review of the past conversation that led the DMCB to its sadly mistaken impression revealed what really happened: the spouse really indicated she might be willing to think about it.*

Was the DMCB intentionally twisting words to fulfill a self-serving technology-addled agenda?  Or, did its morbid fascination with gadgetry unintentionally bias its recall?  Or, was it just an honest mistake?

For a better example of the mistakenly unintentional intentionality over what gets said and what gets reported, check out what happened with a recent Associated Press poll that assessed Americans' knowledge and opinion of Obamacare. Here's a link to the survey.

Among the many questions was one that did not deal with "death panels."  Instead, this was the very reasonable and tone-neutral question that appeared toward the end of the survey:

Do you think that the new law will or will not do the following after the law is fully in effect? [Create committees of people who will review the medical histories of some people and decide whether they can get medical care paid for by the federal government.] 

And here's the AP news report on the results of the survey.  The DMCB provides the headline and then the paragraph that dealt with the question's results above. 

AP-GfK Poll: Most see health law being implemented

Misconceptions about the law that reigned two years ago live on, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's widely debunked charge that it would create "death panels" to decide on care for the elderly and disabled. In 2010, 39 percent believed the law would set up committees to review individual medical records and decide who gets care paid for by the government. Forty-one percent still hold that view, according to the poll (Here's the link to the AP Newswire Report)

Note that the AP headline does not mention "death panels." However, the paragraph pasted above explicitly links "death panels" to a benign survey question on "reviewing medical histories." 

At least the misleading paragraph was buried toward the end of the article.

Not so with the widely read The Hill.

Poll: Four in 10 believe in Obama healthcare law ‘death panels’

About four in 10 U.S. adults believe that President Obama's healthcare reform law will create "death panels" to decide patients' fitness for care, according to a new Associated Press-GfK survey.

Support for the widely challenged claim has remained steady since 2010, when 39 percent believed "death panels" would result from the healthcare law. Today, 41 percent say the same is true. (link to The Hill article)

So, is the lingering fixation on "death panels" by major news outlets an accurate reinterpretation of Americans' true opinions?  Or, does it portray a tut-tuting disdain by the national media for the 39% to 41% of Americans who are mistakenly worried about the intrusion of government into medical decision-making?  Or, is the DMCB just being touchy about an honest mistake?

You decide.

By the way, the 41% are ironically and technically quite correct answering affirmatively to "committees will review the medical histories of some people and decide whether they can get medical care paid for by the federal government."  Appeals and grievances over denials of coverage by health insurers have been handled by "committees" for years, including fee-for-service Medicare.  Go to this document on Medicare Appeals, scroll to page 18 and you'll find this quote on what inpatient beneficiaries should do if they feel they are being unfairly denied coverage medical services:

The Quality Improvement Organization will look at your medical information provided by the hospital and will also ask you for your opinion. The QIO will decide if you’re ready to be discharged within 1 day of getting the requested information (bolding DMCB; you can read about QIOs here).

*In the interest of full disclosure, the spouse says even the "think about it" characterization is generous.  Instead, she recalls saying "no."  The DMCB will continue to explore her real thinking on this matter.

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