Sarah Palin infected the health care debate with damaging misinformation last year when she claimed the package includes “death panels.” And as Democrats make their final push to enact the bill, she has reiterated it.
Palin coined the term in a Facebook entry last August, leading to heated controversies about the reform effort. Republican lawmaker Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) echoed the former Alaskan governor, telling constituents that they “have every right to fear” such a bill.
But the notion that the concept exists in any form in the legislation has been debunked by The Associated Press and FactCheck.org, among other organizations. The nonpartisan PolitiFact awarded it “Lie of the Year” in 2009, a testament to its inaccuracy and far-reaching impact.
On Sunday, Palin took to Facebook to revive the claim as it purportedly pertains to the “rationing” of health care.
“Government health care will not reduce the cost of medical care; it will simply refuse to pay it,” the former vice presidential candidate wrote. “And who will get left behind when they have to ration care to save money?”
“Please ask yourself: who will be left behind?” she continued. “And who will decide — what kind of panel will decide — who receives the health care that government will obviously have to ration?”
Palin argues that the Democratic package would lead to rationing of care by a federal government “panel,” which she suggested would have the power to strip treatment for needy patients. But the legislation does not allow this to occur as it contains no expansion of government-controlled insurance.
In fact, the objective of the bill is to minimize the rationing of care presently carried out by the private sector. Insurance companies are legally able to deny coverage to patients on the basis of pre-existing conditions and drop sick people from plans, even if they’ve paid their premiums in full. The Democrats’ reform effort would put an end to these practices.
Along with stiffer insurance regulations, the bill contains subsidies for low-income individuals and an individual mandate that they purchase coverage. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says it would cover an additional 31 million legal American residents and reduce the deficit by $118 billion over ten years.
In other words, the legislation allows the federal government to help fund health care coverage for those who lack it, but not assume control of any private-sector insurance programs. As a result, it precludes the government from being in a position to ration health care treatments.
The prospect of expanding government-based insurance has been debated in the form of a public insurance option and a Medicare buy-in program, but neither made the cut for the Senate bill, and neither is in the final reconciliation package.
In Sunday’s Facebook note, Palin blasts the Democratic health reform bill as damaging to the United States and a betrayal of the public’s will. “[W]e have to kill this bill before November,” she writes.
President Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod and spokesman Robert Gibbs expressed confidence Sunday that it would pass within a week.