Alaska's loose harpoon still distorts the health care debate

The sanity wing of the GOP makes a feeble effort to stamp out the misrepresentations about 'death panels,' before reverting to Palin politics once more
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(State of Alaska)

The sanity wing of the GOP makes a feeble effort to stamp out the misrepresentations about 'death panels,' before reverting to Palin politics once more

It looked for about 24 hours as though the sanity wing of the Congressional Republicans would prevail on health care reform. Maybe former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's raving about evil "death panels" was so embarrassing to the GOP leadership that party leaders would show support for a little objective reality?

Nope. Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, his party's ranking member on the Senate committee that will decide whether or not the nation deserves health care reform, went with Palin's whopper. He told a health care gathering in Winterset, Iowa (John Wayne's birthplace; how CAN you tell a lie in Dukes home town?) on Wednesday, July 11, that if you fear a "government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on Grandma" then, in the Senators words "you have every right to fear."

This after Palin's apparent retraction and a strong putdown by Alaskas GOP Senator, Lisa Murkowski, and Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson, the Georgia Senator who has sponsored legislation with other highly respected Republicans, (Collins of Maine and Lugar of Indiana) to have Medicare help pay for voluntary end-of-life counseling with physicians. Sen. Isakson described Palins transmogrification of that provision as "nuts." Murkowski had earlier lamented, "I'm really offended by the [death panel] terminology, because it absolutely isn't in the bill."

On Thursday Grassley announced that Medicare funding for end-of-life counseling is at the end of its life. The six senators negotiating a bipartisan Senate bill dropped the counseling provisions, as Grassley put it, "entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly." The misinterpretation being Grassley's and that of the GOP's guiding voice on health care issues, Sarah Palin.

Ex-Governor Palin, having on Monday called for civil discourse concerning health care and asking supporters "not to give proponents of nationalized health care any reason to criticize us," returned on Thursday to her theme that House versions would provide for death panels to decide who lives and who dies.

Medicare coverage for counseling &mdash­ supported by both the American Medical Association and the Palliative Care Organization ­&mdash remains in the House bill, but Grassley made it plain today that it won't be in the Senate bill. It's possible that the Medicare-paid counseling provision could be reinserted in a joint Senate-House conference committee, if the health care reform process ever gets that far.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the Oregon Democrat who sponsored the end-of-life counseling provision in the House version, says it would in fact block funds being used for any counseling that deals with suicide or assisted suicide. Of Palin's latest assertions, Blumenauer said Thursday, "If she wasn't deliberately lying at the beginning, she is deliberately allowing a terrible falsehood to be spread with her name."


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About the Authors & Contributors

Bob Simmons

Bob Simmons is a longtime KING-TV reporter who has been writing news for print and television for 65 years.