AP Wrongly Claims Palin's Figurative 'Death Panels' Contention 'Now Widely Debunked'

There are quite a few problems with Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar's December 28 coverage ("New fee coming for medical effectiveness research") concerning a new fee (i.e., tax) which will imposed on health insurance companies for each person they cover starting tomorrow.

Several times (twice in the body and once as seen above in the headline), the story refers to the assessment as a "medical effectiveness research" fee (without quotes). Just once, in the eleventh paragraph, does Alonso-Zaldivar call it by its far more widely-known name (written as indicated): "comparative effectiveness" research. But the item which stuck out like a sore thumb with me, and should also do so for anyone else who closely followed how the stimulus bill got enacted into law as well as the Obamacare discussions later that year,, was the following paragraph (bolds are mine):


The 2009 economic stimulus bill included $1.1 billion for medical effectiveness research, mainly through the National Institutes of Health. It was not considered particularly controversial. But things changed during the congressional health care debate, after former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin made the claim, now widely debunked, that Obama and the Democrats were setting up "death panels" to ration care.

First of all, the idea was described as "comparative effectiveness" in the actual stimulus bill -- 17 times.

Second, Alonso-Zaldivar is wrong in contending that the idea of comparative effectiveness "was not considered particularly controversial."

Of course it wasn't controversial in the run-up to the stimulus bill's passage because, as House Republican Leader John Boehner emphatically pointed out on the day of the vote, no one was given time to read the 1,100-page, 186,000-word bill before they voted on it.

Once the provision was discovered and vetted, it became quite controversial, as AP's weak-sister brethren at UPI pointed out on February 24, 2009, just over a week after President Obama signed the bill (presented in full because of its brevity):

Obscure healthcare measure ignites furor

An obscure healthcare provision tucked into the $787 billion economic stimulus bill has caused a firestorm of controversy, analysts say.

U.S. President Barack Obama's bill included $1.1 billion for "comparative effectiveness," which backers contend would establish a better system for tracking the performances of drugs, medical devices and surgical procedures. They say it would improve quality of care and ultimately save billions of dollars, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

But conservatives and healthcare industry supporters quickly pounced by saying the effort promotes socialized medicine -- providing a sobering preview of fierce ideological battles to come should Obama move forcefully to reform the healthcare system, analysts said.

Congressional Republicans began labeling the comparative-effectiveness research provision as a step toward "government-run healthcare." And liberals fought back, with left-wing bloggers excoriating what they called inaccurate and misleading comments from conservative healthcare commentator Betsy McCaughey, the Times said.

The LA Times article to which the UPI report refers is incredibly biased, claiming that McCaughey's efforts to call out the statist and patient preference-ignoring aspects of HillaryCare in the early 1990s were "largely discredited" (they weren't, which is largely why HillaryCare never became law).

The Times article mentions (without linking) McCaughey's February 9, 2009 Bloomberg op-ed, where she authoritatively raised the specter of what Sarah Palin in August 2009 figuratively (by using quote marks around the words in her Facebook post) characterized (correctly, Ricardo, despite what the propagandists at Politifact think) as "death panels" (bolded words justify Palin's characterization):

Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan

Tragically, no one from either party is objecting to the health provisions slipped in without discussion. These provisions reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle, until recently the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department.

Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health.

... One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective.

... Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time.”

... What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book (“Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis” -- Ed.), Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.

... The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system.

... Daschle says health-care reform “will not be pain free.” Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.

... This stimulus is dangerous to your health and the economy.

Sarah Palin's figurative claim (which never had the words "setting up" in it) was never "widely debunked" on substance, except in the fevered minds of leftists and the press apparatchiks like Ricardo Alonso-Zalidivar. In fact, subsequent events and other things we have learned about how Obamacare will really operate show that "Sarah Palin is Owed a Huge Apology" and is turning out to be literally correct.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.