Maybe Sarah Palin Was Right About Death Panels

A local woman’s visit to Lansdale Hospital exposes some troubling stats about elder health care

Sarah Palin warned of government “death panels” on her Facebook page and was nationally ridiculed. awarded Palin with the “Lie of the Year” for that statement. President Obama called her out during a joint session of Congress saying the claim is “a lie, plain and simple.”

I thought of Sarah Palin when I heard the story of Helen Wagner. Helen is 91 years old and is the mother of my sister-in-law Peggy. Give Helen five minutes and she will list a dozen times she has held death at bay. But now she is up against a much greater force: Medicare.

Helen lives with Peggy and my brother Bob. In August, she fell and broke her arm. In the emergency room at Lansdale Hospital, a doctor examined her and determined that the fall was probably caused by a minor stroke, possibly two. He was also concerned about a spot he saw on her lung on an X-ray. The doctor ordered more tests and said Helen would be “admitted.”

Only she wasn’t. Instead she entered a Twilight Zone of new Medicare regulations. Two days later the hospital called and said Helen would have to be picked up. When my sister-in-law asked about the tests, she was told they had not been done. In fact, Helen was never admitted to the hospital. She was just being “held for observation.”

A flurry of dialogue among the hospital, my brother and sister-in-law and doctors lasted four days and ended with a threat that Helen would have to be picked up or she would be transported to a nursing home with an available bed and the family would be billed.

My sister-in-law rushed to the hospital where, she says, her mother was weak and barely conscious. Peggy navigated her Mom’s broken arm and bruised leg as she dressed her and wheeled her out of the hospital. There were no discharge papers. (Lansdale Hospital would not comment on this specific case because of privacy laws.)

Helen and her family are just one of the latest victims of new Medicare regulations, and an even more recent crackdown on those regulations that cause agita for hospitals and heartbreak for families who care for the elderly.

The cost-saving rule is just a few years old and requires hospitals to hold some patients “for observation” instead of admitting them. The difference in terminology means that the hospital is reimbursed far less money than they would have if the patient had been “admitted.” When I asked a spokesperson from the hospital to tell me the difference in care between admission and observation, I was told, “There is none. It is just billing.” And yet, one would have to believe, that hospitals are reluctant to conduct tests that will be under-compensated or not covered at all.

Observation can last up to five days, according to the new rules. That may explain the hurried need to get Helen out of the hospital on day four. If a hospital doesn’t adhere to the Medicare regulations, it will face an audit that could mean a huge loss of federal reimbursement dollars.

The burden on families is even greater. If a patient is not admitted, rehab at the nursing home is not covered by Medicare. Even if you have private insurance, many companies base their criteria on Medicare. If Medicare is not covering, the insurance company isn’t either.

My brother and sister-in-law recently had a meeting with administrators at Lansdale Hospital, including the COO, who called the new Medicare rules “the bane of our existence.” Thousands of families have complained since “observation” started over five years ago.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “observation” status claims climbed 26.7 percent from 2006 to 2009—from 828,353 to 1.131 million. The increase in claims for “observation” patients kept for more than 48 hours is startling. It tripled from 26,176 to 83,183.

Observations are supposed to be limited to 24 or 48 hours, with five days being the absolute maximum. CMS believes this shows hospitals believe many patients are too sick to go home and feel pressured into not admitting them under Medicare rules.

So what is the criteria for who gets to be admitted and who gets “observation”? Those who don’t get admitted don’t meet the “evidence-based criteria.” A minor stroke, for instance, can be seen as part of the normal aging process. Helen Wagner, like many people who make it to 91, has a pacemaker and can’t undergo an MRI, the test that would provide evidence of a stroke and its severity.

Helen is now at St. Mary’s nursing home. St. Mary’s is also feeling the Medicare pinch and support Bob and Peggy’s efforts to get the “observation” status changed to admission. The matter is going to an appellate board.

When I heard Helen’s story about a new crackdown on government rules that can impact a patient’s care because of their age. I couldn’t help but think that maybe Sarah Palin was right.

Larry Mendte writes for The Philly Post every Thursday. See his previous columns here. To watch his video commentaries, go to Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @LarryMendte.

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  • NC Citizen

    This is a good article, with very useful information that I’m glad you brought to light. BUT between the headline and you calling this rule just a “few years old” is going to make people think this is related to ObamaCare. But this is a Medicare issue, and later on, you do say the observation rules went into effect five years ago. Perhaps you can better clarify the correlation to Palin’s claim that Obamacare was going to kill her parents and Down’s Syndrome Child?

    • toni

      agreed. this article is incredibly misleading. doesn’t this site have responsible editors? or is it run by Faux News?

    • J.Oz

      NC, Toni…the blog is completely fine. Are you saying that Obamacare will fix the Medicare issue that Larry M. points out? Be real. Take your blinders off.

  • Ozstickman

    Palin’s “death panels” is an apt description of bureaucrats made responsible for mandating levels of treatment Vs decisions made by patients in consultation with their physicians and patient’s families. Obamacare has to be repealed because it focuses on the wrong problem … access to health insurance, and then access to healthcare (rationing) because market forces are not allowed to operate freely …. health insurance is a problem not a solution. When the patient is responsible for payment (using cash from health savings accounts) they will question fees, tests ordered etc. and drive healthcosts down. Tort reform with loser pays is required so physicians do not order tests because they fear lawsuits …. get the lawyers out of healthcare. Reform the FDA and therefore neuter large pharma …. lots of other market driven reforms are available if we get government and bureaucracy out of the way

    • Larry

      When I read the headline, I assumed that it either had something to do with Palin’s tweet or was sarcastic. It was only misleading. The point of the Affordable Care Act was to improve standards for proven care. This has no relavence to this situation. I heard nothing about this example that would indicate that care for an injured 91 year old was the question, but merely hospital compensation levels. Conservatives keep demanding cuts in Medicade so their taxes will be less. If the wealthy believe they should pay less in taxes then the math logically means there is a cut off for the resources to pay for care. It is a worthy debate to decide who gets care and how care is paid for and by whom. Sarah Palin did not offer an alternative, but a soundbite.

      • CATaxpayer

        Larry, are you that clueless. It has everything to do with Obamacare. Obama said “once his healthcare bill was passed everyone would receive coverage and costs would drop.” So Larry, why is this 91 year old woman being denied treatment? Let me help you, because the government no longer allows the Doctor to make the decision regarding treatment. Because this woman is 91 years old, she is viewed by the government as no longer being worth the money or cost to treat. If the Doctor treats the patient they will not be compensated. Therefore, the Doctor will either A) stop treating Medicare patients all together, (already happening), or B) go out of business all together, (already happening). Clearly, you have not read the healthcare bill. Because if you did you would know that Obama cut half a billion dollars from the medicare program to fund Obamacare. Not Conservatives or Republicans, but DEMOCRATS!!!! Remember, these people did not even know what was in the bill when they passed it. Remember Pelosi’s brilliant statement, “we must pass the bill so we can learn what is in the bill!” That is the Democratic Parties position, and you clearly support it. Does not say much for your common sense does it Larry? Lastly, it’s not tax cuts to the rich that is causing this problem. You cannot have a government run healthcare program and think that costs will go down, treatments will improve and all you need to do is tax the rich, or the top 1% as those on the Left like to promote and solve the problem. Infact, you could confiscate 100% of the top 1% income and you will not come close to covering the cost of Obamacare. That is where the death panels come into play. They attempt to control the costsl These are the facts Larry. Read the healthcare bill. Find out what other countries who have this same system are having to deal with. You will find that none of them have been successful in anyway shape or form. We even have several State examples here in the U.S. Your research will show you that they have failed as well. And you will see that Sarah Palin was right!

        • Larry

          I gather your solution is that there should not be Medicare since it helps noone at any time. The Affordable Healthcare Act should have elliminated private insurance since private insurance does exactly the same as what you claim the government is doing which it decides who gets care and who will not. The only difference is that the government has a mandate to provide the best results and the private insurance focus is on profit. You say that the AHCA has created the problem with Larry Mente’s mother. First of all most of the rules and process have yet to be written. Most of the program will not go into effect until 2014. The only things that have started are things such as Children allowed to be on the parents Policies until age 26 and some rules regardimng insurance companies not denying coverage because of preexsting conditions. The key to lowering costs is adding healthy young people to the program through the mandate which has not happened yet. I own a small business and offer healthcare policicies to our full time employees. I have read the parts of the law that relate to our business and they are common sense and reasonable. Since you have read the entire bill, please site the section that allows Medicare to deny Larry Ment’s Mother her benefits and how this is different from pre 2010.

          • CATaxpayer

            How dare the Insurance companies make a profit. Tell me Larry, do you make a profit in your business? I guess that means that you’re a crook and only out to make a profit. Shame on you! You say Obamacare is about providing the best results. Tell me one country that operates under a government controlled healtcare system that meets this standard. You can’t! Obama said his healthcare bill would not put private insurance companies out of business. He said it was about lowering costs, creating competition, and insuring everyone. He said their would be no new taxes, costs would drop right away and everyone would be covered once his healthcare bill was passed. This was a lie! This also does not make sense economically. No private Insurance company can compete with the government when the government mandates what monthly premiums can be charged, how much doctors will be reimbursed for services rendered, mandates in what each policy will cover, or that people with pre-existing conditions who have never paid for insurance can simply sign up after they develop a serious illness and expect the insurance company to pay. They will not be able to compete. They will go out of business. And what typically happens when you lose options to choose insurance company providers? That’s right, costs blow up! I have several Doctor friends, Chiropractic friends, and I have friends who are Nurses who tell me what is happening. The funny thing is most of them voted for Obama because they thought he would govern from the center right. They bought into that HOPE & CHANGE thing! They all have said they will not suport him again and they made a big mistake. They also want Obamacare repealed completely. I also have my father-in-law who works in a hospital in the Medical Billing department that backs up what I’m saying. You pointed out that most of the bill does not take affect until 2014. Thou we’re already seeing the affects with massive insurance cost increases and overall system changes with quality of care. Case point, the story we’re commenting on. You’re incorrect when you say most of the rules and process have yet to be written. What do you think the HEALTCARE BILL IS? It’s the rules and the process of the healthcare program. It tells you how the program will be carried out. Adding healthy young people to the program is not the solution, when the government mandates that certain treatments must be covered by all those that are insured even thou they may never use those services. I.E. birth control pills for everyone. Furthermore, why should an individual pay for healthcare if they would rather put that money to better use somewhere else in their life. It should be the individuals choice to buy. Educate the individual that insurance is meant to guard against medical emergencies, to be there when you need it. But the choice to buy must be the individuals. Remember, if the 28 year old is choosing to pay $400.00 per month in healthcare premiums or put that money towards auto insurance and food then they will choose the auto insurance and food. These government mandates have been around for years and they have only contributed to the rising costs of insurance and healthcare as a whole. Obamacare did not end these mandates they only increased them. Real solutions to the problems are tort reform, allowing insurance companies to cross state lines to do business, allowing individuals to set-up medical saving accounts that allow you to save a portion of your pre-tax income to be used to fund medical emergencies, and putting an end to the massive fraud that is present throughout the system. These are only a small example of real solutions to the problem. Reading only part of the bill does not cut it. Read the entire bill and you will find that it discusses in multiple areas, how the healthcare costs are to be controlled. Look up Sally Pipes who is a renowned expert on healthcare and economics. Sally Pipes is also a former Canadian who is very familiar with Obamacare since it’s identical to Canada’s healthcare system. And overall, look at what other countries who have this type of healthcare are doing. See for yourself why everyone comes to the U.S. for medical treatments, even thou they have insurance in their own countries. See why they are willing to pay the costs themselves to receive healthcare in the U.S. rather then waiting months or years for simple medical procedures in their socialized countries healthcare system. Lastly Larry, I think it is great that you offer healthcare to your staff. I’m glad to hear that you can afford to offer this to your staff. I hope your business improves everyday. However, it should be an option on your part to offer this to your staff. The government has no right to mandate that you offer insurance to your staff. Nor do they have the right to mandate that your staff buy health insurance themselves. This is Unconstitutional. Come Nov. 2012 Obama will be fired and the Supreme Court will throw out Obamacare.

  • Betsy

    Does Helen have a regular doctor? One that she sees on a regular basis? One who is on the staff at Lansdale Hospital? If not, she should. If she does, where was he/she in all of this? If your brother and sister-in-law had called Helen’s doctor first, informed them of the problem, and said they were taking her to the emergency room. If her regular doctor were involved and her history explained she may have been admitted directly or even sent home letting him or her follow up on Helen’s findings. The ER is just that, emergency care, as in Helen’s broken arm. Beyond that her regular physician should have been involved in her admission or follow-up.

    • megan morris

      This is Helen’s granddaughter. My mother did call her doctor – he ordered the tests and thought she was being admitted to the hospital. He fought to have her admitted, but the hospital overruled him.

      • InOhio

        So, you’re saying her doctor ordered an MRI when she has a pacemaker? You do know that would have killed her, right? So, IF the hospital refused, it actually saved her life.

        The ‘observation’ rule started 5 years ago, during the Bush administration. It has nothing to do with Obama OR Palin’s comments.

        You state that she was held for four days, so clearly they did observe her for further symptoms for four days. Given that they couldn’t do an MRI, what else were they supposed to do to determine if she had a minor stroke?

        If you want to grind an axe, go for it. But your article is clearly reaching (hence all the negative feedback). If you want to pin blame on anyone, pin it on the hospitals. They didn’t admit her because they had no proof that she needed to be admitted. So, in order to get 4 days of pay out of her Medicare, they put her into an “observation” status. I’m sure by the second day it was clear that she was not suffering continued stroke symptoms (had they had any symptoms, they would have converted her to ‘admitted’ status for the extra payments.)

        Hospitals suck and everyone deteriorates in those conditions, that your grandmother also had a traumatic injury (broken arm), added to her deterioriation. I suggest if you want to do something for her, then spend time making sure that she is getting good nutrition, adequate rest (so her body can handle recovery from the trauma) and positive stimulation (depression can set in quickly after trauma). She needs caring people, not the cold sterile environment of an understaffed hospital.

        I hope she heals quickly and goes on to have many more years.

  • DG

    AMEN Larry! This is a great piece of education for all those Obama Care Supporters! You aren’t going to get more health care, your going to get a LOT less. I am married to a physician and I can only tell you this story is the very TINY tip of the iceberg!! People better get educated and turn things around before its too late. The governent is going to have “death panels”. Of course they won’t call them that. But everyones care (even those willing to pay for it) is going to be CUT back.
    Look at those recent recos for limiting breast cancer, prostate and not cervical cancer screenings…where does everyone think they are coming from??? Easy answer, the govenment. And thy are going to use those new recos and MUCH MUCH more to limit health care for everyone.
    I encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about what went into that Obama Care bill and begin calling your congressmen to fight all of it!! STAT!

    • NC Citizen

      DG: “I encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about what went into that Obama Care bill and begin calling your congressmen to fight all of it!! STAT!”

      But this article clearly says it’s a Medicare issue, and that the “observation” policy started FIVE YEARS AGO. This is exactly what I meant by how the provocative headline would mislead readers, especially those already predisposed to have certain opinions.

    • InOhio

      I’m sorry, but you are wrong. TEN years ago, I worked with hospital “Patient Advocates”. Their sole job was to know the insurance held by their assigned patients (any insurance, e.g. Blue Cross, Medicare, Cat-Man-Zu… didn’t matter). Their job was to “maximize ROI” and “minimize losses” from that insurance. So, if the insurance paid for butt-kissing, the Patient Advocate would work the records to ensure that butt-kissing was prescribed. And when the patient got to within 48 hours of the end of their insurance payments, the Patient Advocate ensured that the patient was magically healed within hours of when the insurance ran out.

      I can tell you that I have been HELD in hospitals for longer than needed because my insurance would pay the extra day.

      This woman’s experience was a direct result of what her insurance would pay for and nothing more. Had they been able to point to even a single solid symptom of stroke, she would have been converted to ‘admitted’ immediately.

      I have also seen hospitals bounce patients. Essentially, they discharge a patient that they know will crash so that the patient can come back in through the ER and start the billing cycle all over again.

      This is NOTHING NEW and has been the standard operating procedure for over a decade. It has nothing to do with Obama or Palin.

  • ImaLindAtoo

    yes, of course Gov Palin is correct. Thank you for pointing this out.

    The Liberals / media got away with making this untrue cliam by virture of NAME, there is no such thing “called a Death Panel” For those who knew better, they were intentionally trying to deceive.

    Gov Palin pointed out many examples. Remember, even Obama himself said, if you’re older, we can give you drugs instead of having an expensive precedure. Except, the procedure FIXES the problem and is actually CHEAPER than keeping folks on drugs that have so many side effects and expense and problems themself.

    Who makes a mint off of a human feed like keeping someone on Cumadin and associated drugs, where they haVe more problems and get to go to Doctors office and hospital to fix from these drugs, vs getting your heart shocked, one time, boom bang, all better! OH NO.

    I never realized how unaware or cruel our population was.

  • insurancemom

    To DG and all who think more education is needed…bravo! Please start by reading the article. This is not a result of “Obamacare,” but started 5 years ago.

    To those who fear bureaucrats making health care decisions, why are you not worried about health insurance companies making said decisions? For-profit insurance companies have a primary responsibility to their bottom line–to their shareholders, not to you and your doctor.

  • John Galt MD

    I see your policy is that you welcome thoughtful comments. I suggest that you begin applying that same standard to your thoughtless writers. Mr Mendte relates a personal anecdote that is consistent with what has been taking place for years and for many other people and has nothing to do with the new healthcare law. Ms Palin, like Mr Mendte is someone who is too stupid or too partisan to get her facts straight and when describing the non-existent death panels she was referring specifically to and lying about the new healthcare law. By choosing the title you did your writers and editors purposely linked two unrelated items. The other thing this ridiculous article missed is the fact that BEFORE medicare and medicaid hospitals refused treatment for tens of thousands in just the same way Mr Mendte described in his anecdote. The problem is with the hospitals not the law. You totally missed this one – the only open question is did you do do so purposely or out of incompetence?

    • CATaxpayer

      Clearly, you’re the one who is unable to get your facts straight. Did you read the healthcare Bill? I say you have not. You sound like a typical democrat voter who has no ability to think for yourself. You simply take what you are told by Obama and the Democrats as facts. To say this is a Medicare problem and has nothing to do with Obamacare is ignorant! Half a billion dollars was taken from Medicare to fund Obamacare. Obamacare affects the entire healtcare system, including Medicare. While these problems might have begun showing themselves five years earlier, they are now becoming an even bigger issue since Obamacare has been forced through. The death panels are reality, simply look at any other country that has socialized healthcare and the death panels are the main way healthcare cost are controlled. Sarah Palin clearly understands this. You however, do not have clue. Get off your lazy ass and read the bill. Look up Sally Pipes who is a renowed expert on healthcare and economic issues. Ms. Pipes is also a former Canadien who is very familiar with Obamacare since it and Canada’s system go hand in hand. You personally have an obligation to your client since you’re an M.D.

  • Rumplestilskin

    Insurance company bureaucrats are making those denial of care decisions today….and unfortunately the HCRA is nothing if not a windfall for the Healthcare Insurance Companies…due to the individual mandate driving folks to them for coverage.

    What we need is universal coverage via Medicare for everyone and with an emphasis on preventive care and funded by high enough Medicare taxes to pay for it. Overall this would be the most cost effective solution in terms of the percentage of GDP consumed to insure a healthy citizenry.

  • someone with good reading comprehension

    I need to chime in hear and join the others saying that the choice of headline and slant of the story is incredibly irresponsible.

    i actually got to the paragraph that gives statistics from 2006-09, the only ones stated in the article, perhaps the last available. so all this happened under “obamacare” haters beloved dubya, but not a single person commenting who embraces the death panel meme seems able to read that far in the article.

    and if you think medicare death panels are bad, pay some attention to private insurers.

    • CATaxpayer

      Clearly your comprehension is not as good as you think. The family member and the situation mentioned in the story have happened since the passage of Obamacare. I thought that Obama said costs would start going down and everyone would be covered right away if his beloved Obamacare was passed. And yet, that has not happened. Costs are skyrocketing at a bigger clip and services are being cut more and more. Doctors are telling their Medicare patients that they can no lon ger help them since Obamacare passed. Doctors are closing their doors and going out of business. And many more Doctors are saying they will have to make major changes in the business if Obamacare is not reversed. These are facts! They are not scare tactics or lies. Read the healthcare bill! Find out for yourself just how big a liar Obama and the Democrats are about what is in the bill. See what other countries who have this government controlled system have to deal with. And lastly, where would you go personally if you needed a heart transplant, or cancer treatment? Would go to Canada? Or would you go to a Hospital here in the U.S. How many stories have we heard of little kids or adults who suffer from some bad illness in other countries. Where do they come for that specialized care and treatment? Let me tell you, it’s not their own country, it’s the U.S.A. I know our Healtcare system has problems that must be fixed. However, Obamacare or similar versions are not the solution. And simply blaming the Insurance companies as greedy and uncaring is not reality. It’s simply directing blame without solving the real problem.

      • Pete

        Nothing like mentioning Sarah Palin to get the masses riled up. The fact of the matter is, in order to solve our national health care problem, we need something like “Death Panels”.

        There, I said it.

        Now, maybe in this case, things weren’t done as properly as they should have, but such things happen.

        My grandfather, in his mid-80s, suffered a stroke and would up in the ICU for three months. He essentially wanted to die, but no one would let him, not my family, not the hospital. Finally, he got himself well enough to leave the hospital, and go to a Manor Care facility, where he promptly died the next morning. Cost to the taxpayers, $450,000. To keep alive a man who would have virtually no quality of life and wanted out of his misery.

        A decade later, in her late-80’s, my grandmother had taken ill, was diagnosed with dementia, and was living in an assisted living facility. While there, she fell and broke her hip. Surgery was an option, but after going through what we went through with my grandfather, we came to the conclusion that putting her through such a surgery would be too much. We had a nice night with her, and she passed away peacefully in her sleep, rather than undergoing an expensive and painful procedure during which she almost certainly would have died, anyway.

        We need to start making smart choices over how our health care dollars are doled out. We spend so much money to keep the drooling husks of what used to be our parents and our grandparents “alive” that it is destroying our economy, our future, and our government.

        I’m not proposing a Logan’s Run type of solution here, but doesn’t someone have to decide how much treatment is too much? Are you familiar with “Provenge”? It’s a Medicare approved vaccine for advance stage prostate cancer patients that extends their lives by about four months. Median age of those taking it is mid-70s. Cost to the taxpayer? $93,000 per person. Where is all of this money coming from?

        • CATaxpayer

          Spoken like a true Socialist Pete! Just like Obama. There I said it! The only problem Pete is the Death Panels will not be forcing these decisions on just people in their 80’s or 90’s. It’s happening to people of all ages. What gives you the right or the government for that matter to tell a woman in her 50’s that the cancer drug that could keep her alive is too expensive? However, they will pay to help her kill herself. This happened in Oregon, who has a State run healthcare program. What gives Obama the right to tell anybody that “when your grandmother has a heart attack, we should give her drugs rather than treat the problem.” I did not know that Obama was a Doctor. You pointed out, that someone has to make the decision of how much treatment is to much? After all you said “someone has to take out these drooling husks of what used to be our parents and our grandparents “alive” that it is destroying our economy, our future, and our government. Great heart Pete. Tell you what Pete, why don’t you take your ass to Venezuela, Cuba, Canada or any other Socialist country and live there. Then you can tell us how great their system is.

  • kay

    larry- this is very poor journalism. lots of details left out and mixing up of information. Palin is and was against Healthcare reform. Medicare rules are not part of her battle.

    It is very easy for hospitals to blame medicare/government/insurance. Your family member is old and should be treated with dignity which also includes getting the correct level of care and not ordering tons of tests on someone who is 91. you do not even note why she is not at their home…so many details left out and we all know the devil is in the details. I think this one was a shock value story and I for one am very disappointed.

    • CATaxpayer

      Kay, this is not a shock value story. This is simply fact! Research any country who has government controlled healthcare and this is what you get. We have seen American citizens in Oregon who have been refused cancer medication because the State of Oregon felt the recipient was to old and therefore did not feel that the money would be well spent on the needed drugs. Oregon has State run Healthcare. The State of Oregon was willing to pay for an American citizen to kill herself, but would not pay for her needed cancer drugs. We have seen many Canadian citizens (including government officials) come across our border for needed healtcare procedures because the waiting period was to long and or they were being refused service outright by the Canadien government. This is reality with government controlled healthcare. I encourage you to read the healthcare bill. I know it’s massive, but read it! You will find that the issues mentioned in this story are only the tip of the iceberg. I also encourage you to look up Sally Pipes, she is a renowned expert on healthcare and economics. She is also a former Canadian. Lastly, Sarah Palin is not against reform. Sarah Palin is calling for reform. Thou she wants REAL REFORM! Not the BS and LIES of Obamacare. Obamacare will not fix the problem. It is only making it worse. We have already seen healthcare costs exploding since the passage of Obamacare. And yet, Obama said the costs would start going down as soon as Obamacare was passed. My family has also seen our healthcare costs sky rocket since the passage of Obamacare.

  • Mary

    This article points out common situations that have occurred in Canada and the UK where you have government controlled healthcare. Beneficial care and life saving procedures are reduced or eliminated and waiting times are significantly increased. So much so that patients end up dying before help is even approved. Yes, Palin was correct about the bureaucratic death panels and Obamacare.

  • Peggie Walsh

    Larry…please continue to write on this topic. The same thing happened to my Mom. She was in Abington Hospital after a fall and then sent her directly to a rehab/nursing home. I asked it Medicare covered this. I was told YES, and then after 20 days in rehab, they told me NO she did not spend 3 overnights in Abington. Something has got to be done!!! Keep writing, keep ranting!!!

    • insurancemom

      Peggie, I worked in healthcare 20 years ago, and this was the Medicare rule even then . . . 3 days of hospitalization was required for rehab to be covered. I’m not saying that this is a good rule, only that it’s nothing new. If everyone would stop ranting and understand how our healthcare system currently works (pre-Obamacare), nobody would defend the current system.

  • Okeguy

    Like many of you, I don’t think this has anything to do with Sarah Palin’s reference to death panels. These are Medicare rules that have been in place for years. Insurers and Medicare have been making financial decisions for decades folks. Nothing has changed. What’s the difference if its Medicare that says “No!” or a private insurance company that says “No!”. As long as we expect others (insurers or the government) to pay for our treatment, there will always be someone to say “No!”. and we’ll just have to fight it. Case by case. Meanwhile, we have to live with media hype and news reporters who will say anything for publicity.

  • Larry Mendte

    First, I know that Sarah Palin was talking about Obamacare and that this new Medicare rule predates its passage. I was not trying to hide that fact as I gave statistics from 2006 and wrote that the rules were over 5 years old.

    I said that I thought of Sarah Palin and her claim when I heard about Helen’s story. I never mentioned Obamacare – not once. I do want to follow up on the new crackdown on the Medicare rule to see if that is related. Private firms are reportedly being hired with consultants who get bonuses when someone is “observed” over being admitted. I wasn’t ready with that part of the story but will write about it.

    But the point is still on target – if the Government is over-ruling a physician to save money because a patient is too old – then “Death Panel” seems appropriate, as the Government is making the call.

    The “new crackdown” may have nothing to do with Obamacare but the timing of that is more suspect. Again, that needs more digging and I will do it.

    Finally, to think that Medicare has nothing to do with Health reform is naive.

    This is a story about human beings and their health care. It is a story about families who suffer. The Sarah Palin reference got your attention – good. Now see beyond the politics of both sides that there is a real problem.

    • insurancemom

      Private insurance companies have been over-ruling physicians to save money (for many reasons, not just because a patient is too old) . . . and increase profits.
      Where was/is your outrage at this?

    • NC Citizen

      Larry: “First, I know that Sarah Palin was talking about Obamacare and that this new Medicare rule predates its passage. I was not trying to hide that fact as I gave statistics from 2006 and wrote that the rules were over 5 years old.”

      You’re STILL doing it. You’re still characterizing the Medicare rule as “new” in the same breath you acknowledge it predates Obamacare!

      And on reading this article a second time, I’m rather fuzzy about how Helen (and I wish her the best, by the way) was subjected to a “death panel.” Number one, she’s alive, due to the fact she was under hospital care for almost five days and is now in a rehab facility, both of which I assume are being paid for by Medicare. If there was a test she should have been given and was not, yes, that needs to be addressed. But I seriously doubt that without Medicare, neither she nor her family would be able to afford a fraction of the costs that these two stays have incurred.

      Again, your headline choice is unfortunate and rather cheapens what could have been a thoughtful exploration of a Medicare policy that might need changing, or for that matter, if the hospital is making some bad judgement calls just to make a little more money.

    • NC Citizen

      And if you want people to see “beyond the politics” of a problem, it’s probably best not to lead with a headline that features “Sarah Palin” and “Death Panels.”

  • Joey

    Lansdale Hospital? That says it all.

  • Eric

    I’m not intending to be rude or confrontational, but your article here doesn’t quite mesh w/ your article here:,0,2115743.story

  • Vicki

    I think Helen should just go see her private doctor. Like Ron Paul says, we shouldn’t rely on government insurance or any insurance. He never took insurance when he was a private prctice doctor. She’d be better off if she just paid for it privately (I do hope she has enough money for that…gosh, I suspect that’s close to $250,000 for a week’s stay in the hospital). Helen shouldn’t expect the taxpayers to pay for her personal medical expenses anyway. I’ll bet Helen hasn’t paid more than $5000 toward Medicare in her whole life. But now I suppose she wants us taxpayers to take care of her.

  • Bill589

    Sarah Palin was, and is, right about many things.

    The government should not be involved in life and death decisions.

  • Adrienne

    Was Sarah Palin right? You betcha! Too bad the media trashed her as unfairly as they did. She’d be a great President.

  • Kc49

    This article has as much genuine information as Bachmann’s statement about HPV causing mental illness. What are his facts? Spare us this trash that you cannot support.

  • Larry

    CATaxpayer is avoiding all the issues that face healthcare and defending the Insurance Companies. Every man for himself and if you can’t afford healthcare good luck. The Insurance Companies are middle men that cause massive amounts of administrative waste. It has been documented without refute that the % of the private insurance costs devoted to administration is substantially more than Medicare. It make sense given that hospitals have to invest millions to insure their services get paid. Children’s Hospital as an example need 100’s of employees, which they cannot even house in their hospital (They lease more space in Center City in the Wanamaker Building) to handle Insurance Company administration. They need teams to deal which each insurance company. This is not a model of efficiency. Frankly the Affordable Health Care Act should have offered single payer which is obviously more efficient. The model in many European Countries is to have Insurance Companies not compete on price, but on service and allow them to offer some Concierge Services. This illiminates the redundannt hospital administration costs and make the insurance companies win when they get the best results and not just how to screw the sick people. Part of the rationalle of not allowing insurance comapnies to cross state lines is to insure that consolidations do not occur to a point where you have monopoly pricing. Again if this is the optimal and most efficient method, that health care which is a public good should be delivered by the government, unemcombered by generating a profit. There sole mandate is to improve the public welfare.

    Th Point of the mandate is to insure that my costs don’t reflect those who end up at the emergency room without insurance and insure that the costs are spread over a larger pool (everyone). Of course everyone wants something for nothing. Some people would like to get rid of the EPA regulations. Well if you don’t live downstream from a polluter, there answer is why do this. Everytime someone is not insureed shows up at emergency room that increases my costs. They are freeloaders. When a polluter endagers someone elses health, they don’t appreciate the costs either. I love people who expect something for nothing and that we are in this together one way or another.

    You never did point out the central point which is what in the Health Care Law Prevented Larry Mente’s sister’s mother in law not get the care they believed they were entitled. I think we both know because the healthcare law has nothing to do with it.

    I enjoy your rants with all the Tea Party talking points, especially when you talk about how everyone comes to this country for care. Well there are 50 million who are already here and have virtually no access to affordable care. Hopefully they will stay well. If you are wealthy and connected you still need to find the best doctors. Unfortunately that is only a small percentage of the public with a leg up.

  • Ken

    If you understand her use of the term “death panels” to mean bureaucrats making the decisions about rationing care, level of quality, and in some cases, life and death, then she is correct with the exception that these decisions are already made at both the private and government sponsored healthcare levels. One can assume these trends to continue and most likely worsen under Obamacare. Fellow citizens, just take a look at many of the social programs run by our government and you’ll see that regardless of party affiliation these programs rarely come close to their stated objectives, stay within budget, etc. Look at the healthcare debates of prior years and decades and it’s like a broken record. Once you put people on benefits at the expense of their fellow citizens it’s very difficult to reverse it. The rest of the world is (hopefully) figuring out what Margaret Thatcher once said “The problem with Socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money”. We would we wise to figure this out, return to personal responsibility, high ethics, and innovation, and move forward together instead of a country ripping itself apart. Health insurance was a great idea when it was intended to prevent a financial catastrophe from an unpreventable health crisis but unfortunately we weren’t able to manage it and it’s now become an entitlement. Obamacare most certainly is not the answer and that’s easily observable by looking at Massachusetts.

  • Ken

    Larry, thank you for a good article about the realities this family faced in seeking medical care, the tough decisions that need to be made by both the seekers and providers, and the expectations of both as well.