A rotten idea resurrected

Obamacare's end-of-life provision returns like a zombie from the grave

If a provision is dropped from a bill before it passes through Congress, it spells the end of that proposed part of the law. When the revised version of a bill is signed, it becomes law, without said provision.


That is, until the executive bureaucrats get hold of it.

According to The New York Times (not Fox News, interestingly enough), a provision in new Medicare regulations that will take effect Jan. 1 incentivizes physicians to discuss "end of life" planning with patients during annual Medicare physicals.

It would appear the executive branch has used its bureaucratic tools to enforce one of the most controversial parts of Obamacare -- end-of-life planning -- that was clearly and purposefully removed from the bill during congressional debate. The regulations would pay physicians for discussing plans for terminal illness with elderly patients.

We've got a ton of questions about all this. But the threshold one is this: Is that really the government's business?

During the health-care debates, the nation's answer seemed to be an overwhelming "no," a rejection that resounded through poll after poll, protests and raucous and emotional town hall meetings, as rumors of Orwellian "death panels" began popping up.

Congress responded appropriately, deleting the provision from the bill.

So how is it that it's showing up again?

Unless it's opened back up for debate in Congress, no means no. Lawmaking is specifically the domain of Congress, according to the Constitution. While it is the job of the executive branch to implement the laws passed by Congress -- and federal agencies routinely write rules and regulations giving legs to those laws -- stretching the law by adding a new provision masquerading as a "regulation" goes far beyond its range of constitutional authority.

It is usurping the role of Congress and making laws by bureaucratic fiat.

In addition, it appears supporters are attempting to cover this up: When the end-of-life provision was added by the bureaucrats, supporters inside the government actually were asked not to publicize the accomplishment, for fear of public reaction.

When questioned, the press office at the White House attributed the rogue provision to a bill signed during the Bush administration. However, that's disingenuous: The end-of-life counseling incentive for physicians is something entirely new.

It's as if they are trying to hide policy-making from the American people. Why -- if it's such a good thing to begin with?

The executive branch's attempt to circumvent Congress and play fast and loose with the public not only is entirely unconstitutional, but frightening -- suggesting that someone in the executive branch is desirous of creating a "shadow Congress" that can and will rewrite Congress' laws to suit their own ends.

The end-of-life provision roundly shouted down by the American people is just as troubling -- appearing for all the world to be a start to rationing, which the current head of Medicare is on record as having supported, and which would come at the expense of America's seniors.

Let's hope The New York Times' spotlight on this bit of skulduggery will kill this provision once and for all.

We'll have to watch this government more closely than perhaps any in our history.