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U.S. Rep Judy Biggert fans health-care flames
Lawmaker says her flier is 'a little inflammatory'
By Joseph Ryan | Daily Herald Staff

Bruce Lund of Naperville holds up a flier from Congresswoman Judy Biggert during a discussion of the issue Wednesday in Naperville.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Republican U.S. Reps. Mark Kirk and Judy Biggert take questions about health-care reform Wednesday at the Naperville Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Naperville at Hotel Arista.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

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Published: 8/13/2009 7:22 AM | Updated: 8/13/2009 7:24 AM

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U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert bemoaned Wednesday the polarizing debate around health-care reform that has led to "circus" town hall meetings across the country.

But on Wednesday she also handed out an information sheet that warned President Barack Obama's government-run insurance plan "requires end-of-life counseling for seniors that might encourage them to give up when facing a serious illness."

Asked about the accuracy of suggesting the plan could require older Americans to be counseled against lifesaving care, Biggert conceded the statement was "a little inflammatory."

"I probably wrote it when I was mad," she said.

The Hinsdale Republican said she didn't know her staff was going to place the flier on the chairs of scores of attendees at a Naperville Chamber of Commerce panel on health-care reform on Wednesday. The flier promotes Biggert's own health-care reform proposals and highlights problems she sees with Obama's plan.

The sheet also says Obama's plan would force 114 million people onto government insurance and kick "millions of seniors" off Medicare.

All three statements have been vigorously rejected as false by proponents of the plan, which is still working through Congress and exists in several different versions.

In reality, at least one version of the House legislation allows for doctors to be paid to provide end-of-life counseling.

Such counseling currently is often covered under private insurance plans and includes discussions of living wills and hospice care. Proponents say it is needed for family members and the sick to know all their options and adequately prepare.

Opponents of the government-run insurance proposal have seized on the counseling provision, saying it raises questions of whether seniors will be persuaded to forgo expensive treatment and choose hospice strictly to save the government money.

Biggert said that while her flier was a bit over the top, she understands why seniors are scared.

"To me I thought that was inflamatory," the 71-year-old said of the provision. "I picture myself going out into the forest and sitting there like the tribes used to do or getting on an iceberg and floating away."

Biggert continued, "I think that is something that is between me and whoever ... whether it is my doctor or my conscience or whatever."

Biggert also said she is concerned what regulators will do with that provision once it's approved by lawmakers. But she said there is no direct provision that states seniors would be pushed to give up treatment in favor of hospice to save the government money.

"I'm not talking that there is euthanasia or anything, but it is a concern particularly for seniors and a lot of seniors are upset about that," she said. "I'm not trying to upset them. This is what I have heard from them."

Biggert said the flier has not been handed out at the senior centers she has visited recently to discuss her opposition to Obama's health-care plan.