Obamacare: The anti-death panel law

One of the most pernicious lies about Obamacare is that it establishes “death panels” to ration needed care, especially care of seniors.  Although thoroughly discredited by independent fact checking sites, the death panel falsehood remains a staple of attacks on the Affordable Care Act.

But it isn’t just that Obamacare doesn’t have death panels or anything remotely like them (the law actually prohibits denying benefits based on cost); we now have strong evidence that the law is actually saving lives,and particularly, the lives of seniors.

Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report that shows “an estimated 50,000 fewer patients died in hospitals and approximately $12 billion in health care costs were saved as a result of a reduction in hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 to 2013” and another 15,000 lives may have been saved by preventing unnecessary hospital readmissions.

These life-saving improvements didn’t just magically happen of their own accord, but are directly associated with two Obamacare programs:

The Partnership with Patients is a collaboration of federal agencies, hospitals, physicians, patients and families to design and implement best practices to reduce health facility acquired infections.  The Partnership with Patients, notes Sarah Kliff, a former Washington Post reporter who is now with Vox, is “a government project that’s part of the Affordable Care Act, aiming to reduce the number of hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent between 2010 and 2014. That program has enrolled more than 3,700 hospitals — who account for four in every five hospital patients — in a learning collaborative to share best practices for increasing patient safety.”

The Readmissions Reduction Program, created by Section 3025 of the Affordable Care, requires CMS to reduce payments to hospitals with excess readmissions, effective for discharges beginning on October 1, 2012.  Following implementation of this program, “The readmission rate for patients who receive care under the traditional Medicare fee-for-service program, “which held steady at 19 percent from 2007 to 2011 — fell to 18.5 percent in 2012 and 17.5 percent in 2013” writes Sarah Kliff.  “The 1.5-percentage-point decrease in readmissions accounts for 150,000 fewer patients readmitted to a hospital when they didn’t need to be.”

So instead of allowing the critics to scare seniors about non-existent death panels, we need to spread the word that Obamacare is really the anti-death panel law, helping to make health care better and safer for millions.

Bob Doherty is senior vice president, governmental affairs and public policy, American College of Physicians and blogs at The ACP Advocate Blog.

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