Obviously, opinion writers in newspapers have a lot more leeway in interpreting facts than actual reporters do. But I've generally assumed that opinion pages strive for a minimal of factual accuracy in order to avoid embarrassing the publication as a whole. Which is why, like Matt Yglesias, I can't understand why Michael Steele's op-ed was published in the Washington Post today, given the fact that it's riddled with falsehoods, one of the most egregious of which is this one:

Third, we need to outlaw any effort to ration health care based on age. Obama has promoted a program of "comparative effectiveness research" that he claims will be used only to study competing medical treatments. But this program could actually lead to government boards rationing treatments based on age. For example, if there are going to be only so many heart surgeries in a given year, the Democrats figure government will get more bang for its buck if more young and middle-aged people get them.

Fourth, we need to prevent government from dictating the terms of end-of-life care. Many of the most significant costs of care come in the last six months of a patient's life, and every American household must consider how to treat their loved ones. Obama's government-run health "reform" would pay for seniors' meetings with a doctor to discuss end-of-life care. While nonthreatening at first, something that is quite normal for a family to do becomes troublesome when the government gets involved. Seniors know that government programs that seem benign at first can become anything but. The government should simply butt out of conversations about end-of-life care and leave them to seniors, their families and their doctors.

We've moved on from the absurd-sounding "death panels" to the more subtle "government boards." I suppose that since Steele's statement is that "x" could lead to "y," it's technically not a factual inaccuracy, merely uninformed speculation. He's not saying that the Democrats want to kill seniors -- he's just saying that it might happen in the future if health-care reform passes, and who can predict the future?

At any rate, there's nothing like this in the bill; there's no way that something like that would be constitutional if it were; and Michael Steele doesn't even know what kind of health insurance he has. So, the Post might as well attribute the piece to the unpaid intern who actually wrote it, and we can all stop pretending Steele knows anything about health-care policy.

This is worth saying again: The part of the bill, now removed, referring to end-of-life counseling entails Medicare covering voluntary meetings with that person's doctor. The government is footing the bill for session, not dictating what decisions the individual can make. The government is only "butting in" in the sense that it's paying for it. Or it would have, if the mainstream press had been the slightest bit interested in accuracy and the GOP hadn't successfully convinced a large number of people that the government is intent on euthanizing the elderly, a fabrication that the Washington Post editorial page editors don't seem in much of a hurry to correct.

-- A. Serwer

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