Why Sarah Palin is right on the issue of “death panels”

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah Palin, talking about the issue of ObamaCare, warned Americans about the so-called “death panels” that would come as a result of ObamaCare, “end of life” panels that would essentially decide who was worthy for care and who wasn’t. The remarks, as you can imagine, ignited a firestorm of controversy – with the left erupting like they usually do whenver Sarah Palin speaks her mind and even some on the right were and are wondering what the heck she’stalking about. Here are her plainspoken remarks in full, which she posted on her Facebook page:

As more Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current administration is rushing through Congress, our collective jaw is dropping, and we’re saying not just no, but hell no!

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. 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. Such a system is downright evil.

Health care by definition involves life and death decisions. Human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any health care discussion.

Rep. Michele Bachmann highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the president’s health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff, in a floor speech to the House of Representatives. I commend her for being a voice for the most precious members of our society, our children and our seniors.

We must step up and engage in this most crucial debate. Nationalizing our health care system is a point of no return for government interference in the lives of its citizens. If we go down this path, there will be no turning back. Ronald Reagan once wrote, “Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.” Let’s stop and think and make our voices heard before it’s too late.

National Review addressed their concerns about healthcare rationing in an editorial earlier this week. In that same editorial, they took Palin to task over the suggestion of “death panels.” Andy McCarthy, in turn, gave a spirtied defense of her here that is a must-read, but an even better one comes from Michael Cannon, the Cato Institute’s director of health policy studies. In today’s Detroit Free Press, he writes:

President Obama has proposed a new body that would enhance Medicare’s ability to deny care to the elderly and disabled based on government bureaucrats’ arbitrary valuations of those patients’ lives.

It is right there in the legislation now before Congress, and it is called the Independent Medicare Advisory Council.

Medicare already has the statutory authority to reduce the amount it will spend on elderly and disabled patients, but largely cannot exercise that authority. Federal law says that Medicare may deny coverage for services that are not “reasonable and necessary,” but gives no guidance on what “reasonable” and “necessary” mean. That effectively leaves the issue in the hands of the bureaucrats at the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“In theory,” writes Tufts Medical Center’s Peter Neumann and colleagues, “the CMS could interpret Medicare’s statutory authority to cover ‘reasonable and necessary’ services as a license to use cost-effectiveness analysis,” i.e., to deny care. “To date,” however, “this course has proved to be impossible.”

Why? Political resistance from the medical industry (which prefers that Medicare pay for everything) and the Sarah Palins (who don’t trust bureaucrats to make those decisions) prevent Medicare from using cost-effectiveness criteria. Former CMS chief Mark McClellan notes that a mixed record of judicial interpretations and some specific congressional actions, for example on broad coverage of cancer treatments, have tied Medicare’s hands somewhat. But he agrees: “I do think that political pressures have limited the agency’s ability to go further.”

Enter the Obama administration, which submitted to Congress legislative language that would create IMAC and give it broad authority to recommend “reforms to the Medicare program.” In effect, IMAC would enable Medicare to overcome the political resistance to government rationing.

Some facets of Medicare would be beyond the reach of IMAC’s unelected bureaucrats— but not Medicare’s interpretation of “reasonable and necessary.” The stimulus bill and the House reform plan deny federal agencies conducting comparative-effectiveness research the power to “mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer.” Obama places no such restrictions on IMAC.

Unless Congress rejects IMAC’s recommendations within 30 days, they would become law. The administration would have license to implement them “notwithstanding any provisions of this Act or any other provisions governing the Medicare program.”

Read the whole thing.

Newt Gingrich had a lively battle with socialized healthcare proponent and former DNC chair Howie Dean on This Week. Sadly, RNC Chair Michael Steele – who has failed to impress conservatives so far this year since taking the leadership reins of the RNC – has said he “doesn’t know” if the ObamaCare legislation says anything about death panels. Dude, haven’t you read anything related to the bill yet?

Fortunately, the Senate Finance Committee stripped the “death panel” provisions out of the Senate bill, but it’s still in Pelosi’s the House’s version.

Stay tuned.

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