Section 1233 of HR 3200 Bill Causes a Stir, Once Again

Use common sense regarding section 1233

While this product makes it easier to pull a plug, the HR 3200 bill does not.

While this product makes it easier to pull a plug, the HR 3200 bill does not.

Just when I thought people were getting the story straight about section 1233, the section of HR 3200 that addresses end-of-life consultation, another round of strange interpretations and accusations has started flying around. I came across an article on, a pro-life web site, that summarizes the new concerns surfacing about section 1233.

I’m not a politician or a policymaker. I’m just an average citizen who could use some cash loans like most U.S. residents. Instead of reading through all of the jargon and arguing, I’m simply going to address the claims people are making about section 1233 using common sense straight out of my own head.

Does section 1233 give financial incentive for euthanasia?

Here is a summary from LifeNews explaining one of the provisions of section 1233 of HR 3200, the bill on health care reform.

The measure would pay physicians to give Medicare patients end-of-life counseling every five years or sooner if the patient has a terminal diagnosis.

Here’s a quote, per LifeNews,  from a recent column by Charles Lane of the Washington Post Columnist:

“As I read it, Section 1233 is not totally innocuous,” Lane writes, adding that it “addresses compassionate goals in disconcerting proximity to fiscal ones.”

“Though not mandatory, as some on the right have claimed, the consultations envisioned in Section 1233 aren’t quite ‘purely voluntary,'” as backers of the bill assert, Lane adds. “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.”

HR 3200 introduces nothing new

What this columnist, LifeNews and anti-reformers who are squawking about section 1233 of the HR 3200 bill fail to recognize is that end-of-life consultations are not new. Doctors have always been paid to conduct these consultations. Section 1233 simply says Medicare will pay for it now instead of private insurance or individuals.

So, the financial incentive to aid terminal patients in creating a will and getting informed about their options for care has always been there. Doctors have no more reason to do it now than they did before. Section 1233 just makes it easier for patients to afford consultations on what are indeed very important life decisions.

More crazy talk

The other claim that LifeNews outlines is that physicians not only have financial incentive to do the consultations but to “formulate a plug-pulling order.” LifeNews says:

Pro-life advocates say the section opens the door to physicians pushing euthanasia or withdrawal of lifesaving medical treatment, or even basic food and water.

So, there’s a financial incentive for killing patients off? How’s that possible? Live patients spend a whole lot more money than dead ones. I’d argue that physicians have not only ethical, compassion-based reasons for keeping their patients alive as long as possible, they have financial incentives to do that as well. The longer a person stays in the hospital, the more money the hospital earns.

Closing argument

I highly doubt that the source of the funding is going to sway doctors one way or the other on whether they should pull a patient’s plug. This is just another example of a scare tactic used by groups that don’t want the HR 3200 health care bill to pass for political reasons.

What these people are truly opposed to is plug-pulling in the first place, something the HR 3200 bill neither encourages nor discourages, it just facilitates education. If these people want plug-pulling outlawed, they need to address that issue, not try to take down a huge health care bill that affects the entire country in many positive ways and could provide health coverage for 46 million Americans who don’t have insurance.