Congressman Leonard Boswell is defending the idea of government coverage of "end of life" counseling that’s included in a House health care reform bill.
The proposal has drawn fire, with Republican Senator Chuck Grassley saying it could lead to "pulling the plug on grandma." Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines, says that rhetoric has sparked unfounded "fear" among seniors.
"I can’t imagine doing that, putting a fear into them that their going cause them to make a decision to end their life. It just makes me feel very, very bad," Bosewll says. "And I think when it’s clear that it’s a choice and a respected place like Mayo says if you sit down and have this consultation you have better quality (care) and it costs less even — that’s not necessarily the reason for it — let that individual make a decision when they can. And who of us wouldn’t want to do that?"
Boswell has said he’s not sure, yet, whether he’ll support a health care reform package, but Boswell is expressing support for this provision that would offer Medicare coverage for consultations about end of life care.
"The basic message of it is if a physician sits down and spends that time with somebody that elects to do it, they get paid for it. It’s like an office call," Boswell says. "That seems reasonable to me."
Boswell recently was asked about this issue during a "town hall meeting" in Sigourney, and he cited Mayo Clinic studies.
"The end of life (treatment) is very expensive — nobody likes to talk about it, you know — but it’s very expensive and they have discovered through counseling and so on, that they can cut that almost in half," Boswell said, as people in the crowd started heckling him. "No, the cost, the cost. Let’s be respectful just for a minute. We’re talking about something that is very serious in our lives with our loved ones and, at some point, with us."
Boswell, who is 75 years old, told the crowd he personally encountered the issue during a recent health scare.
"I had a very serious surgery. I don’t know if you every noticed, I was a little ill a couple of years ago and my wife and daughters were told, into a lengthy surgery, that if the doctor had to make a decision, he’d come out to them to make it," Boswell said. "You know what, they’d had a conversation with me. They said, ‘Dad, you make those decisions. We don’t want to make them for you,’ and I got to thinking about it. I’d kind of like to make those decisions, too."
Boswell had a non-cancerous tumor removed from his stomach in 2005 and a long period of recuperation followed. Last summer, he had another surgery which his staff said was "corrective" and related to that 2005 operation.