Would 'The Golden Girls' Survive ObamaCare?

Recently, I've taken to watching reruns of "The Golden Girls" (1985-1992). I liked the series when it first aired and despite the dated political jokes and pop culture references, I find that it holds up pretty well today. Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Dorothy's mother Sophia - despite the usual over-the-top treatment given to sitcom characters and the plot lines - are funny, quite human and endearing, making for an entertaining half hour.

While watching it the other day, I had a thought: how would four women, either near retirement age or past it, be treated in such a show should ObamaCare become the law of the land? How would the writers and producers deal with the following episodes, if they were written in a world of socialized medicine?

Stan Takes a Wife: Sophia, who hasn't been feeling well, is suddenly hospitalized with pneumonia and the doctor tells Dorothy - who's keeping an all-night vigil in the waiting room with her ex-husband Stan - that they're doing all they can, but Sophia might not make it. If the episode were written under ObamaCare strictures, would the doctor tell Dorothy that her mother was too old for treatment and that she was being sent home with painkillers to keep her comfortable until the end?

Not Another Monday: Sophia's friend Martha, tired of the pain, suffering and loneliness of old age, wants to end it all with a bottle of pills and asks Sophia to be there to "hold her hand" at the end. Despite Dorothy's worrying, Sophia keeps her promise and makes the date - and convinces Martha that life is worth living despite its difficulties. (I actually had a tear in my eye during this episode.) Imagine if Martha had seen her end-of-life counselor before she saw Sophia. Sophia might have ended the episode like it began - coming back from a funeral.

Home Again Rose (a two-parter): Despite not feeling well for a couple of weeks, Rose refuses to see a doctor, even though her roommates urge her to go. The night the girls crash an East Miami High School reunion, Rose suffers a heart attack and needs triple bypass surgery. If the show were being written under ObamaCare's terms, would Rose qualify for the surgery based on comparative- and cost-effectiveness research? Would she have to find out if her life is literally "worth" the cost of the surgery?

In fact, would "The Golden Girls" even be considered as a television show if ObamaCare takes over? Either the writers would have to ignore the health issues related with getting older, or the shared home in Miami would see a lot of new roommates over the years.

Taking it one step further, what about hospital dramas like "E.R."? Would they focus less upon "can we save this man's life" and more upon "is this life-saving procedure allowed?"

There's a reason our older population is concerned, as well they should be. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel - White House Chief of Staff Rahm's brother - is a health-policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and a member of Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research, and real-life Golden Girls would not fare well under his policies:

Emanuel, however, believes that "communitarianism" should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens . . . An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia" (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96).

Translation: Don't give much care to a grandmother with Parkinson's or a child with cerebral palsy.

He explicitly defends discrimination against older patients: "Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years" (Lancet, Jan. 31).

It might seem frivolous to compare a television sitcom to the grave situation before us, but most television shows - even sitcoms - reflect the realities of the day. And either the grim realities of ObamaCare would make their way into our entertainment or our entertainment would be altered to avoid such realities.

Either option is disturbing.

Pam Meister is editor for
FamilySecurityMatters.org. She also contributes to Pajamas Media and Big Hollywood. The opinions expressed here are her own.