For someone who once generated a national hysteria by claiming socialized medicine would bring about government-run "death panels" that would kill the elderly and children with mental defects, Sarah Palin seems remarkably calm, what with her grandson now facing the very same allegedly tyrannical construct, that is.


Yes, that's right: Sarah Palin, Alaska's former governor and a millionaire thanks to sales of her book, has a grandson whose health care is paid for by the federal government, according to newly released court documents.

The revelation was made in court documents filed Feb. 16, relating to the child support battle between Bristol Palin and Levi Jonson, available here [PDF link] courtesy of E! Online.

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care," Palin wrote on her Facebook page in mid-August. "Such a system is downright evil."

Her diatribe was actually a twisted interpretation of end of life care, a provision that would have paid for patients' counseling with doctors and attorneys on what they wish to be done on their behalf after death -- but that didn't stop Republicans the nation over from repeating the claim ad nauseam, seemingly undeterred by its transparent inaccuracy.

So far, that system of "downright evil" has provided comprehensive medical care for her grandson Tripp, paid for with federal dollars from the Indian Health Service.

Arguing that Johnson had not paid health insurance premiums for his son, lawyers for Palin's daughter wrote that exemptions claimed by Johnson's attorneys were invalid due to Tripp's health coverage by the IHS. The claim can be found on page eight of the court documents.

"There are two reasons why this request should be rejected," the lawyers wrote. "First, Levi has never paid for any health insurance. One cannot seek deduction for costs or support one has never paid. Second, this insurance is unnecessary. Tripp is an enrolled member of Curyung Tribal Council within the Bristol Bay Native Association consortium. Because the majority of Tripp's health care costs are already covered by IHS and the Alaska Native Medical Center, Mr. Johnston has no need to purchase additional health insurance and his deduction should not be allowed."

Because Tripp's grandfather Todd is descendant from the Yup'ik Eskimo, his children and grandchildren are registered with the Curyung Tribal Council, part of the Bristol Bay Native Association, and thus eligible for government-run health insurance through the Indian Health Service. All "lineal descendants" of Native enrollees are eligible for the program.

The health services are provided by law as a requirement of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA), passed in 1976. The Indian Health Service is overseen by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Reauthorization of the IHCIA had stalled during President Bush's terms and the group has lobbied President Obama to work with them on reforming the legislation and ensuring its reauthorization.

"We recognize that there is a national need for health care reform," The National Indian Health Board wrote in an open letter [PDF link] dated June, 2009. "However, as frequently noted, the United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee health care coverage for all of its citizens. The irony of reforming health care is that it means more to Indian people than fixing a broken system. Compared to what we were promised, health care in Indian Country is an atrocity; funding for health care that does not adequately provide quality health care for our people, substandard health conditions due to government inefficiency, and pitting Tribe against Tribe for construction, maintenance and repair of health facilities, just to name a few."

While the Tribes' complaints certainly ring similar to other rational concerns about the possibility of socialized medicine, it is a far, far cry from the nightmare scenario Palin invented to describe Obama's health reform proposals. The revelation that her own grandson benefits from such a system would seemingly leave one to wonder why Palin, a woman of such wealth and affluence, would not just pay for private insurance instead of entrusting her grandson's health and well-being to a group she unwittingly called "downright evil."

A prior version of this story did not specify why Tripp Palin is eligible for tribal health benefits.