Sarah Palin Still Hasn’t Read the Bill

A few months ago, Sarah Palin ended her formal political career to seek the greener pastures of the Facebook “Notes” application, from which she conjured one of the most offensive, distortionary, and downright malicious lies in recent American political history — the notion that an optional government health plan would somehow hunt down and murder her favorite prop special-needs child. Sunday, despite the disagreement of every analyst with even a semblance of honesty, Palin re-returned to the subject. On Facebook.

We had been told there were no “death panels” in the bill either. But look closely at the provision mandating bureaucratic panels that will be calling the shots regarding who will receive government health care.

Let’s take her challenge. Do look closely at the bill’s language. There, § 240, the section controlling funds for end-of-life planning, now contains a healthy subsection (d), making explicit a ban against assisted suicide. In previous versions of the bill, to get to Sarah’s “death panels,” one had to imagine language that wasn’t there; now, one has to imagine away language that pointedly is there.

If the argument is that a public option would create a government panel to “ration” care, one searches for the provision in vain (start at § 321): because the public option is modeled on Medicare, it will function largely through public/private partnerships, with the government acting only as an intermediary. Under this system, the government makes no health care decisions whatsoever, except setting a minimum for services that must be covered (start at § 221). Government decisions on minimum care, when they happen, will start at a higher initial value than is currently available in the private market.

Sarah’s failure to grasp this point means that she has neither read the bill, nor grasped even the contours of the deeper debate on health care. The length of legislation is no excuse: we pay politicians to read, write, and mark up bills. If she’s not willing to, then she made the right decision to get out of politics. Provided she stays out. Completely.

Remember, not six months ago, in the wake of her failed election, Governor Palin was the toast of the conservative “movement.” We ought not let them forget it. Rarely have so many been so wrong about so inconsequential an individual.



  1. The really ironic thing about “rationing” of health care is that no matter what approach you use, it happens anyway, as it necessarily must in any system where resources are not unlimited. In a fully public system, it just happens on the basis of the available funds overall, while in a fully private system, it’s on the basis of how much people and/or the insurance companies are willing to pay for the services.

    Another point is that while “rationing” sounds pretty nasty, it’s actually covers some processes that are quite indispensable for a well-functioning health system. Most countries with public health systems have government agencies such as the British National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence or the Danish Institute for Rational Pharmacotherapy whose job is to ensure that the treatments being used offer the best value for the money, so that it’s not being wasted on ineffectual or dangerous treatments.

    I’m certain the American insurance companies do exactly the same thing; only difference is that the insurance companies’ processes and methodologies are not open to public scrutiny, and are necessarily affected by profit motives.

  2. […] We all remember — how could we not — Sarah Palin’s alarmist fears about how the government would “ration” healthcare, leading nameless, faceless bureaucrats to make decisions that could kill off disfavored elements of the population, like sick children and the elderly. Palin’s li(n)e was always inflammatory, contributing to the climate of extremism Republicans apparently need to win elections, and it was always wrong. […]

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