Tag Archives: Medicaid

Palin’s Cunning Sleight of Hand

Sarah Palin’s Sleight of Hand

Sarah Palin’s Sleight of Hand

Liberals had a blast mocking Sarah Palin last weekend when she was caught addressing the Tea Party Convention with a cheat sheet scrawled on her hand. Even the president’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, couldn’t resist getting into the act and treated a White House briefing to a Palin hand gag of his own.

Yet the laughter rang hollow. You had to wonder if Palin, who is nothing if not cunning, had sprung a trap. She knows all too well that the more the so-called elites lampoon her, the more she cements her cred with the third of the country that is her base. Her hand hieroglyphics may not have been speaking aids but bait.

If so, mission accomplished. Her sleight of hand gave the anti-Palin chorus another prod to deride her as an empty-headed, subliterate clown, and her fans another cue to rally. The only problem is that the serious import of Palin’s overriding political message got lost in this distracting sideshow. That message has the power to upend the Obama presidency — even if Palin, with her record-low approval ratings, never gets anywhere near the White House.

The Palin shtick has now become the Republican catechism, parroted by every party leader in Washington. Their constant refrain, delivered with cynicism but not irony, is this: Republicans are the anti-big-government, anti-stimulus, anti-Wall Street, pro-Tea Party tribunes of the common folk. “This is about the people,” as Palin repeatedly put it last weekend while pocketing $100,000 of the Tea Partiers’ money.

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Palin Once Favored End-Of-Life Counseling

Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Portland, Oregon's 3rd District, sponsored the end-of-life counseling amendment characterized by conservative politicians as the formation of 'death panels' to euthanize seniors.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Portland, Oregon's 3rd District, sponsored the end-of-life counseling amendment characterized by conservative politicians as the formation of 'death panels' to euthanize seniors.

Portland, Ore. – Health insurance reform continues to grip both chambers of Congress and the Obama administration; it also remains a focal point of former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whose criticism of Portland’s contribution to the House health reform bill fueled a conservative uprising.

President Obama this week noted that the end-of-life counseling amendment, sponsored by Portland’s U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, had been used by conservatives and a “prominent politician” to spread “cynical and irresponsible” charges. Obama referred to Palin and her claim that the amendment would lead to so-called death panels for senior citizens.

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Sarah Palin’s New Death Panel

The GOP is slowing down healthcare reform to a snail's pace.

The GOP is slowing down healthcare reform to a snail's pace.

Sarah Palin popped up again today on the Wall Street Journal’s Op-Ed page to renew her accusation that President Obama was advocating “death panels.” Never mind that lawmakers have already abandoned the proposal that gave rise to the original “death panel” hysteria, namely, a provision allowing Medicare to pay doctors no more than once every five years to counsel patients about their options for “end of life” care. (Some top geriatricians think such counseling would actually give the elderly more control by encouraging them to declare their preferences while they’re still capable of doing so. But I digress.) This time, Palin attacked Obama’s proposal to beef up MedPAC — the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. The 17-member MedPAC makes recommendations to Congress about how much doctors and hospitals should be paid for the services they provide. To insulate these decisions from political pressure, Obama has proposed giving a new version of MedPAC the power to set reimbursement levels, with Congress retaining the power to veto those decisions before they take effect. To Palin, though, this amounted to giving “an unelected, largely unaccountable group of experts” the power to make life-and-death decisions about care.

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Sarah Palin, Meet Hippocrates

Palin on Obama's Death Panels

Palin on Obama's Death Panels

As if you hadn’t heard, a gaggle of American conservatives is stridently charging that pending health care reform legislation will institute a mechanism for euthanizing selected members of the handicapped and elderly populations–that it would, in Sarah Palin’s formulation, establish “death panels.” It’s true that H.R. 3200, the bill that will eventually come before the House of Representatives, is still a work in progress. It has already been amended by three separate House committees, while two Senate committees are working on drafts of their own. All of the provisions to be included in the final bill are not yet known, but one thing is certain: There is not a single statement in the voluminous number of pages under study that contains the slightest consideration, no matter its remoteness, of death panels, euthanasia, or any such fearsome concept.

In reality, the legislation simply calls for the reimbursement of physicians who counsel patients on end-of-life decision-making–counseling that is already required by a 1990 law and that is now covered by many insurance plans. But the specifics of the present bill are irrelevant to the loony conversation the right has sparked during the August recess. After all, even if there were some provision before Congress that could conceivably be interpreted as establishing a “death panel,” centuries, if not millennia, of established medical ethics (in addition to existing U.S. law) would prevent its actualization. In the midst of this crucial debate on the future of health care, somehow, the proponents of the euthanasia talking point seem to have forgotten everything we know about the practice of medicine in America.

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